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-W  i;  tiiO  f 



MACMILLAN  AND  CO.,  Limited 








OF    THE 









VOL.   II 



I  9 1  6 



Articles  on  Castes  and  of  the  Central 
Provinces  in  Alphabetical  Order 

The  articles  wJiich  are  considered  to  be  of  most  getieral  interest 

are  shown  in  capitals 


Agaria  {Iron-worker)    . 


Agharia  {Cultivator')    . 


Aghori  {Religious  ine72di 

cant)    . 


AhIr  {Herdsmaii  a7id  niilknmn) 


Andh  {Tribe,  now  cultivators)  . 


Arakh  {Hunter) 


Atari  {Scent-seller) 


Audhelia  {Labourer)     . 


Badhak  {Robber) 


Bahna  {Cotton-cleaner) 


Baiga  {Forest  tribe) 


Bairagi  {Religious  inetidicants) 


Balahi  {Labourer  and  v 

llage  watchman) 


Balija  {Cultivator) 


Bania  {Merchant  and  moneylender) 

1 1 1 
























Baxj.\ra  {Pack-carrier) 

Barai  {Betel-vi/ie  groivcr  and  seller) 

Barhai  {Carpe7iter) 

Bari  {Maker  of  leaf-plates) 

Basdewa  {Cattle-dealer  and  religious  mendica7it) 

Basor  {Bamboo-iuorker) 

Bedar  {Soldier  and  public  service) 

Beldar  {Digger  and  navvy) 

Beria  ( Vagabond  gipsy) 

Bhaina  {Forest  tribe)    . 

Bhamta  {Criminal  tribe  and  labourers) 

Bharbhunja  {Grain-parcher) 

Bharia  {Forest  tribe)     . 

Bhat  {Bard  and  genealogist)    . 

Bhatra  {Forest  tribe)    . 

BhIl  (Forest  tribe) 

Bhilala  {Landotuner  arid  cultiimtor) 

Bhishti  ( IVater-man)    . 

Bhoyar  {Cultivator) 

Bhuiya  {Forest  tribe)    . 

Bhulia  ( IVeaver) 

Bhunjia  {Forest  tribe)  . 

Binjhwar  {Cultivator)  . 

Bishnoi  {Cultivator) 

Bohra  {Trader) 

Brahman  {Priest) 


Ahivasi.  Maharashtra. 

Jijhotia.  Maithil. 

Kanaujia,  Kanyakubja.  Mahvi. 

Khedawal.  Nagar. 

Chadar  (  Village  watcJanari  and  labourer-) 

Cha.U\k  {Tanner  ajui  labourer) 

Chasa  {Cultivator) 

Chauhan  (  Village  watchman  and  labourer) 

ChhTpa  {Dyer  and  calico-printer) 

ChitAri  {Painter) 












Chitrakathi  (/Vi//f/;r  .v/z<9tt';/w;/) .  .  .  .  -438 

CvLic\\\  {'Trader  a?id  sliopkcepcr)  .  .  .  .440 

Vits\\\vx  {Village  ivatchviaii  and  labourer)  .  .  .        444 

Daharia  {Culth'ator)    .  .  .  .  ■  -453 

Vil\\\<g\  {Landowner  and  cultivator')         .  .  .  .457 

Dangri  ( Vegetable-groiver)         .  .  .  .  -4*^3 

Darzi  {Tailor)  ......        466 

Dewar  {Beggar  and  musician)  .  .  .  ■  .472 

Dhakar  {Illegitimate,  cultivator)  ....        477 

Dhangar  {Shep/ierd)     .  .  .  .  .  .480 

Dhanuk  {Bowman,  labourer)     .....        484 

Dhanwar  {Forest  tribe)  .....        488 

DhImar  {Fisherman,  water-carrier,  and  house/iold  servant)        .        502 
Dhoba  {Forest  tribe,  cultivator)  .  .  .  •        5 1 5 

Dhobi  {Wasker?nan)  .  .  .  .  .  .519 

Dhuri  {Grain-parcher) .  .  .  .  .  .527 

Dunial  {Cultivator)       .  .  .  .  .  -53° 

Fakir  {Beligious  mendicant)       .  .  .  .  -537 


31.  Aghori  mendicant  ...... 

32.  Ahirs  decorated  with  cowries  for  the  Stick  Dance  at  Diwali 

33.  Image  of  Krishna  as    Murhdhar    or   the  flute-player,   with 

attendant  deities 

34.  Ahir  dancers  in  Diwali  costume 

35.  Pinjara  cleaning  cotton 

36.  Baiga  village,  Balaghat  District 

37.  Hindu  mendicants  with  sect-marks. 

38.  Anchorite  sitting  on  iron  nails 

39.  Pilgrims  carrying  water  of  the  river  Nerbudda 

40.  Coloured  Plate  :   Examples  of  Tilaks  or  sect-marks  worn  on 

the  forehead      ..... 

41.  Group  of  Marwari  Bania  women     . 

42.  Image  of  the  god  Ganpati  carried  in  procession 

43.  The  elephant-headed  god  Ganpati,      His  conveyance  is  a 

rat,  which  can  be  seen  as  a  little  blob  between  his  feet 

44.  Mud  images  made  and  worshipped  at  the  Holi  festival 

45.  Bania's  shop 

46.  Banjara  women  with  the  singh  or  horn 

47.  Group  of  Banjara  women   . 

48.  Basors  making  baskets  of  bamboo 

49.  Bhat  with  his  piitla  or  doll 

50.  Group  of  Bhlls 

51.  Tantia  Bhll,  a  famous  dacoit 

52.  Group  of  Bohras  at  Burhanpur  (Nimar) 

53.  Brahman  worshipping  his  household  gods 

54.  Brahman  bathing  party 

55.  Brahman  Pujaris  or  priests 




1 12 



56.  Group  of  Maratha  Brahman  men    . 

57.  Group  of  Naramdeo  Brahman  women 
5  8.  Group  of  Naramdeo  Brahman  men 

59.  Chamars  tanning  and  working  in  leather     . 

60.  Chamars  cutting  leather  and  making  shoes . 

61.  ChhTpa  or  cahco-printer  at  work 

62.  Dhlmar  or  fisherman's  hut 

63.  Fishermen  in  dug-outs  or  hollowed  ti'ee  trunks 

64.  Group  of  Gurujwale  Fakirs 



a  has  the  sound  of  u  in  but  or  murmur. 


a  in  bath  or  tar. 


e  in  karte  or  ai  in  maid. 


i  in  bit^  or  (as  a  final  letter)  of  y  in  siilky 

i         , 


ee  in  beet. 


0  in  bore  or  bowl. 


u  in  /z/^"  or  bull. 


00  in  /i9(??-  or  boot. 

The  plural  of  caste  names  and  a  few  common  Hindustani  words 
is  formed  by  adding  s  in  the  English  manner  according  to  ordinary 
usage,  though  this  is  not,  of  course,  the  Hindustani  plural. 

Note. — The  rupee  contains  i6  annas,  and  an  anna  is  of  the  same 
value  as  a  penny.  A  pice  is  a  quarter  of  an  anna,  or  a  farthing. 
Rs.  1-8  signifies  one  rupee  and  eight  annas.  A  lakh  is  a  hundred 
thousand,  and  a  krore  ten  million. 

PART    11 




Agfaria.^ — A  small  Dravidian  caste,  who  arc  an  offshoot 
of  the  Gond  tribe.  The  Agarias  have  adopted  the  profession 
of  iron-smelting  and  form  a  separate  caste.  They  numbered 
9500  persons  in  191  i  and  live  on  the  Maikal  range  in  the 
Mandla,  Raipur  and  Bilaspur  Districts, 

The  name  probably  signifies  a  worker  with  d^-  or  fire. 
An  Agaria  subcaste  of  Lohars  also  exists,  many  of  whom 
are  quite  probably  Gonds,  but  they  are  not  included  in  the 
regular  caste.  Similar  Dravidian  castes  of  Agarias  are  to 
be  found  in  Mirzapur  and  Bengal.  The  Agarias  are  quite 
distinct  from  the  Agharia  cultivating  caste  of  the  Uriya 
country.  The  Raipur  Agarias  still  intermarry  with  the 
Rawanbansi  Gonds  of  the  District.  The  Agarias  think  that 
their  caste  has  existed  from  the  beginning  of  the  world,  and 
that  the  first  Agaria  made  the  ploughshare  with  which  the 
first  bullocks  furrowed  the  primeval  soil.  The  caste  has  two 
endogamous  divisions,  the  Patharia  and  the  Khuntia  /\garias. 
The  Patharias  place  a  stone  on  the  mouth  of  the  bellows  to  fix 
them  in  the  ground  for  smelting,  while  the  Khuntias  use  a  peg. 
The  two  subcastes  do  not  even  take  water  from  one  another. 

Their  exogamous  sections  have  generally  the  same 
names  as  those  of  the  Gonds,  as  Sonwani,  Dhurua,  Tekam, 
Markam,  Uika,  Purtai,  Marai,  and  others.  A  few  names  of 
Hindi  origin  are  also  found,  as  Ahindwar,  Ranchirai  and 
Rathoria,  which  show  that  some  Hindus  have  probably 
been  amalgamated  with  the  caste.  Ahindwar  or  Aindwar 
and  Ranchirai  mean  a  fish  and  a  bird  respectively  in  Hindi, 
while  Rathoria  is  a  gotra  both  of  Rajputs  and  Telis.  The 
Gond  names  are  probably  also  those  of  animals,  plants  or 
other   objects,    but   their   meaning   has  now  generally  been 

1  This     article    is    compiled     from       of  Bilaspur,  and  Kanhya  Lai,  clerk  in 
papers  by  Mr.  Mir  Padshah,  Tahsildar       the  Gazetteer  office. 



forgotten.  Tekam  or  ieka  is  a  teak  tree.  Sonwani  is  a 
sept  found  among  several  of  the  Dravidian  tribes,  and  the 
lower  Hindu  castes.  A  person  of  the  Sonwani  sept  is  always 
chosen  to  perform  the  ceremony  of  purification  and  readmis- 
sion  into  caste  of  persons  temporarily  excommunicated. 
His  duty  often  consists  in  pouring  on  such  a  person  a  little 
water  in  which  gold  has  been  placed  to  make  it  holy,  and 
hence  the  name  is  considered  to  mean  Sonapani  or  gold- 
water.  The  Agarias  do  not  know  the  meanings  of  their 
section  names  and  therefore  have  no  totemistic  observances. 
But  they  consider  that  all  persons  belonging  to  one  gotra 
are  descended  from  a  common  ancestor,  and  marriage  within 
the  gotra  is  therefore  prohibited.  As  among  the  Gonds,  first 
cousins  are  allowed  to  marry. 
2.  Mar-  Marriage  is  usually  adult.     When   the  father  of  a  boy 

riage.  wishes  to  arrange  a  marriage  he  sends  emissaries  to  the 
father  of  the  girl.  They  open  the  proceedings  by  saying, 
'  So-and-so  has  come  to  partake  of  your  stale  food.'  ^  If 
the  father  of  the  girl  approves  he  gives  his  consent  by  saying, 
'  He  has  come  on  foot,  I  receive  him  on  my  head.'  The 
boy's  father  then  repairs  to  the  girl's  house,  where  he  is 
respectfully  received  and  his  feet  are  washed.  He  is  then 
asked  to  take  a  drink  of  plain  water,  which  is  a  humble 
method  of  offering  him  a  meal.  After  this,  presents  for  the 
girl  are  sent  by  a  party  accompanied  by  tomtom  players, 
and  a  date  is  fixed  for  the  marriage,  which,  contrary  to  the 
usual  Hindu  rule,  may  take  place  in  the  rains.  The  reason 
is  perhaps  because  iron-smelting  is  not  carried  on  during  the 
rains  and  the  Agarias  therefore  have  no  work  to  do.  A  i&w 
days  before  the  wedding  the  bride-price  is  paid,  which  consists 
of  5  seers  each  of  ui'ad  and  til  and  a  sum  of  Rs.  4  to  Rs.  i  2. 
The  marriage  is  held  on  any  Monday,  Tuesday  or  Friday, 
no  further  trouble  being  taken  to  select  an  auspicious  day. 
In  order  that  they  may  not  forget  the  date  fixed,  the  fathers 
of  the  parties  each  take  a  piece  of  thread  in  which  they  tie 
a  knot  for  every  day  intervening  between  the  date  when  the 
marriage  day  is  settled  and  the  day  itself,  and  they  then 
untie  one  knot  for  every  day.  Previous  to  the  marriage  all 
the  village  gods  are  propitiated  by  being  anointed  with  oil 

1  BCisi  or  rice  boiled  in  water  the  previous  day. 


by  the  Baiga  or  village  priest.  The  first  clod  of  earth  for 
the  ovens  is  also  dug  by  the  Baiga,  and  received  in  her  cloth 
by  the  bride's  mother  as  a  mark  of  respect.  The  usual 
procedure  is  adopted  in  the  marriage.  After  the  bride- 
groom's arrival  his  teeth  are  cleaned  with  tooth-sticks,  and 
the  bride's  sister  tries  to  push  sdj  leaves  into  his  mouth,  a 
proceeding  which  he  prevents  by  holding  his  fan  in  front  of 
his  face.  For  doing  this  the  girl  is  given  a  small  present. 
A  paili^  measure  of  rice  is  filled  alternately  by  the  bride 
and  bridegroom  twelve  times,  the  other  upsetting  it  each 
time  after  it  is  filled.  At  the  marriage  feast,  in  addition  to 
rice  and  pulse,  mutton  curry  and  cakes  of  urad  pulse  fried 
in  oil  are  provided.  Urad  is  held  in  great  respect,  and  is 
always  given  as  a  food  at  ceremonial  feasts  and  to  honoured 
guests.  The  greater  part  of  the  marriage  ceremony  is 
performed  a  second  time  at  the  bridegroom's  house. 
Finally,  the  decorations  of  the  marriage-shed  and  the  palm- 
leaf  crowns  of  the  bride  and  bridegroom  are  thrown  into 
a  tank.  The  bride  and  bridegroom  go  into  the  water,  and 
each  in  turn  hides  a  jar  under  water,  which  the  other  must 
find.  They  then  bathe,  change  their  clothes,  and  go  back 
to  the  bridegroom's  house,  the  bride  carrying  the  jar  filled 
with  water  on  her  head.  The  boy  is  furnished  with  a  bow 
and  arrows  and  has  to  shoot  at  a  stuffed  deer  over  the  girl's 
shoulder.  After  each  shot  she  gives  him  a  little  sugar,  and 
if  he  does  not  hit  the  deer  in  three  shots  he  must  pay 
4  annas  to  the  sazvdsa  or  page.  After  the  marriage  the 
bridegroom  does  not  visit  his  wife  for  a  month  in  order  to 
ascertain  whether  she  is  already  pregnant.  They  then  live 
together.  The  marriage  expenses  usually  amount  to  Rs.  i  5 
for  the  bridegroom's  father  and  Rs.  40  for  the  bride's  father. 
Sometimes  the  bridegroom  serves  his  father-in-law  for  his 
wife,  and  he  is  then  not  required  to  pay  anything  for  the 
marriage,  the  period  of  service  being  three  years.  If  the 
couple  anticipate  the  ceremony,  however,  they  must  leave 
the  house,  and  then  are  recalled  by  the  bride's  parents,  and 
readmitted  into  caste  on  giving  a  feast,  which  is  in  lieu  of 
the  marriage  ceremony.  If  they  do  not  comply  with  the 
first  summons  of  the  parents,  the  latter  finally  sever  connec- 

'   A  measure  containing  about  2^  lbs.  of  grain. 


tion  with  them.  Widow  marriage  is  freely  permitted,  and 
the  widow  is  expected  to  marry  her  late  husband's  younger 
brother,  especially  if  he  is  a  bachelor.  If  she  marries 
another  man  with  his  consent,  the  new  husband  gives  him  a 
turban  and  shoulder-cloth.  The  children  by  the  first  husband 
are  made  over  to  his  relatives  if  there  are  any.  Divorce  is 
permitted  for  adultery  or  extravagance  or  ill-treatment  by 
either  party.  A  divorced  wife  can  marry  again,  but  if  she 
absconds  with  another  man  without  being  divorced  the  latter 
has  to  pay  Rs.  1 2  to  the  husband. 

When  a  woman  becomes  pregnant  for  the  first  time,  her 
mother  goes  to  her  taking  a  new  cloth  and  cakes  and  a 
preparation  of  milk,  which  is  looked  on  as  a  luxurious  food, 
and  which,  it  is  supposed,  will  strengthen  the  child  in  the 
womb.  After  birth  the  mother  is  impure  for  five  days. 
The  dead  are  usually  burnt,  but  children  under  six  whose 
ears  have  not  been  pierced,  and  persons  dying  a  violent 
death  or  from  cholera  or  smallpox  are  buried.  When  the 
principal  man  of  the  family  dies,  the  caste-fellows  at  the 
mourning  feast  tie  a  cloth  round  the  head  of  his  successor 
to  show  that  they  acknowledge  his  new  position.  They 
offer  water  to  the  dead  in  the  month  of  Kunwar  (September- 

They  have  a  vague  belief  in  a  supreme  God  but  do  not 
pay  much  attention  to  him.  Their  family  god  is  Dulha  Deo, 
to  whom  they  offer  goats,  fowls,  cocoanuts  and  cakes.  In 
the  forest  tracts  they  also  worship  Bura  Deo,  the  chief  god 
of  the  Gonds.  The  deity  who  presides  over  their  profession 
is  Loha-Sur,  the  Iron  demon,  who  is  supposed  to  live  in  the 
smelting-kilns,  and  to  whom  they  offer  a  black  hen.  Formerly, 
it  is  said,  they  were  accustomed  to  offer  a  black  cow.  They 
worship  their  smelting  implements  on  the  day  of  Dasahra 
and  during  Phagun,  and  offer  fowls  to  them.  They  have  little 
faith  in  medicine,  and  in  cases  of  sickness  requisition  the  aid 
of  the  village  sorcerer,  who  ascertains  what  deity  is  displeased 
with  them  by  moving  grain  to  and  fro  in  a  winnowing-fan 
and  naming  the  village  gods  in  turn.  He  goes  on  repeating 
the  names  until  his  hand  slackens  or  stops  at  some  name, 
and  the  offended  god  is  thus  indicated.  He  is  then  sum- 
moned and  enters  into  the  body  of  one  of  the  persons  present. 


and  explains  his  reason  for  being  offended  with  the  sick 
person,  as  that  he  has  passed  by  the  god's  shrine  without 
taking  off  his  shoes,  or  omitted  to  make  the  triennial  offering 
of  a  fowl  or  the  like.  Atonement  is  then  promised  and  the 
offering  made,  while  the  sick  person  on  recovery  notes  the 
deity  in  question  as  one  of  a  vindictive  temper,  whose 
worship  must  on  no  account  be  neglected.  The  Agarias 
say  that  they  do  not  admit  outsiders  into  the  caste,  but 
Gonds,  Kawars  and  Ahirs  are  occasionally  allowed  to  enter 
it.  They  refuse  to  eat  monkeys,  jackals,  crocodiles,  lizards, 
beef  and  the  leavings  of  others.  They  eat  pork  and  fowls 
and  drink  liquor  copiously.  They  take  food  from  the  higher 
castes  and  from  Gonds  and  Baigas.  Only  Bahelias  and  otlicr 
impure  castes  will  take  food  from  them.  Temporary  excom- 
munication from  caste  is  imposed  for  conviction  of  a  criminal 
offence,  getting  maggots  in  a  wound,  and  killing  a  cow,  a 
dog  or  a  cat.  Permanent  excommunication  is  imposed  for 
adultery  or  eating  with  a  very  low  caste.  Readmission  to 
caste  after  temporary  exclusion  entails  a  feast,  but  if  the 
offender  is  very  poor  he  simply  gives  a  little  liquor  or  even 
water.  The  Agarias  are  usually  sunk  in  poverty,  and  their 
personal  belongings  are  of  the  scantiest  description,  consisting 
of  a  waist-cloth,  and  perhaps  another  wisp  of  cloth  for  the 
head,  a  brass  lota  or  cup  and  a  few  earthen  vessels.  Their 
women  dress  like  Gond  women,  and  have  a  few  pewter 
ornaments.  They  are  profusely  tattooed  with  representations 
of  flowers,  scorpions  and  other  objects.  This  is  done  merely 
for  ornament. 

The  caste  still  follow  their  traditional  occupation  of  iron-  s-  Occupa- 
smelting  and  also  make  a  few  agricultural  implements.  They 
get  their  ore  from  the  Maikal  range,  selecting  stones  of  a  dark 
reddish  colour.  They  mix  i6  lbs.  of  ore  with  15  lbs.  of 
charcoal  in  the  furnace,  the  blast  being  produced  by  a  pair 
of  bellows  worked  by  the  feet  and  conveyed  to  the  furnace 
through  bamboo  tubes  ;  it  is  kept  up  steadily  for  four  hours. 
The  clay  coating  of  the  kiln  is  then  broken  down  and  the 
ball  of  molten  slag  and  charcoal  is  taken  out  and  hammered, 
and  about  3  lbs.  of  good  iron  are  obtained.  With  this  they 
make  ploughshares,  mattocks,  axes  and  sickles.  They  also 
move  about  from  village  to  village  with  an  anvil,  a   hammer 


8  AGHARIA  part 

and  tongs,  and  building  a  small  furnace  under  a  tree,  make 
and  repair  iron  implements  for  the  villagers. 

I.  Origin.  Ag'hapia  ^   (a   corruption    of   Agaria,   meaning    one    who 

came  from  Agra). — A  cultivating  caste  belonging  to  the 
Sambalpur  District^  and  adjoining  States.  They  number 
27,000  persons  in  the  Raigarh  and  Sarangarh  States  and 
Bilaspur  District  of  the  Central  Provinces,  and  are  found  also 
in  some  of  the  Chota  Nagpur  States  transferred  from  Bengal. 
According  to  the  traditions  of  the  Agharias  their  forefathers 
were  Rajputs  who  lived  near  Agra.  They  were  accustomed 
to  salute  the  king  of  Delhi  with  one  hand  only  and  without 
bending  the  head.  The  king  after  suffering  this  for  a  long 
time  determined  to  punish  them  for  their  contumacy,  and 
summoned  all  the  Agharias  to  appear  before  him.  At  the 
door  through  which  they  were  to  pass  to  his  presence  he 
fixed  a  sword  at  the  height  of  a  man's  neck.  The  haughty 
Agharias  came  to  the  door,  holding  their  heads  high  and  not 
seeing  the  sword,  and  as  a  natural  consequence  they  were  all 
decapitated  as  they  passed  through.  But  there  was  one 
Agharia  who  had  heard  about  the  fixing  of  the  sword  and 
who  thought  it  better  to  stay  at  home,  saying  that  he  had 
some  ceremony  to  perform.  When  the  king  heard  that  there 
was  one  Agharia  who  had  not  passed  through  the  door,  he 
sent  again,  commanding  him  to  come.  The  Agharia  did  not 
wish  to  go  but  felt  it  impossible  to  decline.  He  therefore 
sent  for  a  Chamar  of  his  village  and  besought  him  to  go 
instead,  saying  that  he  would  become  a  Rajput  in  his  death 
and  that  he  would  ever  be  held  in  remembrance  by  the 
Agharia's  descendants.  The  Chamar  consented  to  sacrifice 
himself  for  his  master,  and  going  before  the  king  was  be- 
headed at  the  door.  But  the  Agharia  fled  south,  taking  his 
whole  village  with  him,  and  came  to  Chhattisgarh,  where 
each  of  the  families  in  the  village  founded  a  clan  of  the 
Agharia  caste.  And  in  memory  of  this,  whenever  an  Agharia 
makes  a  libation  to  his  ancestors,  he  first  pours  a  little  water 
on  the  ground  in  honour  of  the  dead  Chamar.      According  to 

'   This   article    is    mainly    compiled  Mnster  of  the  Raigarh  English  School, 

from  papers  by  the  late  Mr.  Baikunth  and  Kanhya  Lai,  clerk  in  the  Gazetteer 

Nath    Pujari,    Extra   Assistant    Com-  office. 

missioner,  Sambalpur;  Sitaram,  Head  '^  Now  transferred  to  Bengal. 


another  version  of  the  story  three  brothers  of  different  families 
escaped  and  first  went  to  Orissa,  where  they  asked  the  Gaj[)ati 
king  to  employ  them  as  soldiers.  The  kin<^  caused  two 
sheaths  of  swords  to  be  placed  before  them,  and  telling  them 
that  one  contained  a  sword  and  the  other  a  bullock-goad, 
asked  them  to  select  one  and  by  their  choice  to  determine 
whether  they  would  be  soldiers  or  husbandmen.  From  one 
sheath  a  haft  of  gold  projected  and  from  the  other  one  of 
silver.  The  Agharias  pulled  out  the  golden  haft  and  found 
that  they  had  chosen  the  goad.  The  point  of  the  golden  and 
silver  handles  is  obvious,  and  the  story  is  of  some  interest  for 
the  distant  resemblance  which  it  bears  to  the  choice  of  the 
caskets  in  The  Merchant  of  Venice.  Condemned,  as  they 
considered,  to  drive  the  plough,  the  Agharias  took  off  their 
sacred  threads,  which  they  could  no  longer  wear,  and  gave 
them  to  the  youngest  member  of  the  caste,  saying  that  he 
should  keep  them  and  be  their  Bhat,  and  they  would  support 
him  with  contributions  of  a  tenth  of  the  produce  of  their 
fields.  He  assented,  and  his  descendants  are  the  genealogists 
of  the  Agharias  and  are  termed  Dashanshi.  The  Agharias 
claim  to  be  Somvansi  Rajputs,  a  claim  which  Colonel  Dalton 
says  their  appearance  favours.  "  Tall,  well-made,  with  high 
Aryan  features  and  tawny  complexions,  they  look  like 
Rajputs,  though  they  are  more  industrious  and  intelligent 
than  the  generality  of  the  fighting  tribe."  ^ 

Owing  to  the  fact  that  with  the  transfer  of  the  Sambalpur  2.  Sub- 
District,  a  considerable  portion  of  the  Agharias  have  ceased 
to  be  residents  of  the  Central  Provinces,  it  is  unnecessary  to 
give  the  details  of  their  caste  organisation  at  length.  They 
have  two  subdivisions,  the  Bad  or  superior  Agharias  and 
the  Chhote,  Sarolia  or  Sarwaria,  the  inferior  or  mixed 
Agharias.  The  latter  are  a  cross  between  an  Agharia  and 
a  Gaur  (Ahir)  woman.  The  Bad  Agharias  will  not  eat  with 
or  even  take  water  from  the  others.  Further  local  sub- 
divisions are  now  in  course  of  formation,  as  the  Ratanpuria, 
Phuljharia  and  Raigarhia  or  those  living  round  Ratanpur, 
Phuljhar  and  Raigarh.  The  caste  is  said  to  have  84  gotras 
or  exogamous  sections,  of  which  60  bear  the  title  of  Patel, 
18  that  of  Naik,  and    6   of  Chaudhri.      The  section    names 

'   Daltou's  EtJiiiolog}'  of  Bengal,  p.  322. 


lo  A  CHART  A  part 

are  very  mixed,  some  being  those  of  eponymous  Brahman 
gotyas,  as  Sandilya,  Kaushik  and  Bharadwaj  ;  others  those 
of  Rajput  septs,  as  Karchhul  ;  while  others  are  the  names  of 
animals  and  plants,  as  Barah  (pig),  Baram  (the  pipal  tree), 
Nag  (cobra),  Kachhapa  (tortoise),  and  a  number  of  other 
local  terms  the  meaning  of  which  has  been  forgotten.  Each 
of  these  sections,  however,  uses  a  different  mark  for  brand- 
ing cows,  which  it  is  the  religious  duty  of  an  Agharia  to 
rear,  and  though  the  marks  now  convey  no  meaning,  they 
were  probably  originally  the  representations  of  material 
objects.  In  the  case  of  names  whose  meaning  is  understood, 
traces  of  totemism  survive  in  the  respect  paid  to  the  animal 
or  plant  by  members  of  the  sept  which  bears  its  name. 
This  analysis  of  the  structure  of  the  caste  shows  that  it  was 
a  very  mixed  one.  Originally  consisting  perhaps  of  a 
nucleus  of  immigrant  Rajputs,  the  offspring  of  connections 
with  inferior  classes  have  been  assimilated  ;  while  the  story 
already  quoted  is  probably  intended  to  signify,  after  the 
usual  Brahmanical  fashion,  that  the  pedigree  of  the  Agharias 
at  some  period  included  a  Chamar. 

Marriage  within  the  exogamous  section  and  also  with 
first  cousins  is  forbidden,  though  in  some  places  the  union  of 
a  sister's  son  with  a  brother's  daughter  is  permitted.  Child 
marriage  is  usual,  and  censure  visits  a  man  who  allows  an 
unmarried  daughter  to  arrive  at  adolescence.  The  bride- 
groom should  always  be  older  than  the  bride,  at  any  rate  by 
a  day.  When  a  betrothal  is  arranged  some  ornaments  and 
a  cloth  bearing  the  szuastik  or  lucky  mark  are  sent  to  the 
girl.  Marriages  are  always  celebrated  during  the  months  of 
Magh  and  Phagun,  and  they  are  held  only  once  in  five  or 
six  years,  when  all  children  whose  matches  can  be  arranged 
for  are  married  off.  This  custom  is  economical,  as  it  saves 
expenditure  on  marriage  feasts.  Colonel  Dalton  also  states 
that  the  Agharias  always  employ  Hindustani  Brahmans  for 
their  ceremonies,  and  as  very  few  of  these  are  available,  they 
make  circuits  over  large  areas,  and  conduct  all  the  weddings 
of  a  locality  at  the  same  period.  Before  the  marriage 
a  kid  is  sacrificed  at  the  bride's  house  to  celebrate  the 
removal  of  her  status  of  maidenhood.  When  the  bridegroom 
arrives   at   the   bride's  house  he  touches  with  his  dagger  the 


string  of  mango-lcavcs  suspended  from  the  marriage-shed  and 
presents  a  rupee  and  a  hundred  betel-leaves  to  the  bride's 
saivdsin  or  attendant.  Next  day  the  bridegroom's  father 
sends  a  present  of  a  bracelet  and  seven  small  earthen  cups 
to  the  bride.  She  is  seated  in  the  open,  and  seven  women 
hold  the  cups  over  her  head  one  above  the  other.  Water  is 
then  poured  from  above  from  one  cup  into  the  other,  each 
being  filled  in  turn  and  the  whole  finally  falling  on  the  bride's 
head.  This  probably  symbolises  the  fertilising  action  of  rain. 
The  bride  is  then  bathed  and  carried  in  a  basket  seven  times 
round  the  marriage-post,  after  which  she  is  seated  in  a  chair 
and  seven  women  place  their  heads  together  round  her  while 
a  male  relative  winds  a  thread  seven  times  round  the  heads 
of  the  women.  The  meaning  of  this  ceremony  is  obscure. 
The  bridegroom  makes  his  appearance  alone  and  is  seated 
with  the  bride,  both  being  dressed  in  clothes  coloured  yellow 
with  turmeric.  The  bridegroom's  party  follows,  and  the  feet 
of  the  couple  are  washed  with  milk.  The  bride's  brother 
embraces  the  bridegroom  and  changes  cloths  with  him. 
Water  is  poured  over  the  hands  of  the  couple,  the  girl's 
forehead  is  daubed  with  vermilion,  and  a  red  silk  cloth  is 
presented  to  her  and  the  couple  go  round  the  marriage-post. 
The  bride  is  taken  for  four  days  to  the  husband's  house 
and  then  returns,  and  is  again  sent  with  the  usual  gauna 
ceremony,  when  she  is  fit  for  conjugal  relations.  No  price 
is  usually  paid  for  the  bride,  and  each  party  spends  about 
Rs.  lOO  on  the  marriage  ceremony.  Polygamy  and  widow 
marriage  are  generally  allowed,  the  widow  being  disposed 
of  by  her  parents.  The  ceremony  at  the  marriage  of  a 
widow  consists  in  putting  vermilion  on  the  parting  of  her 
hair  and  bangles  on  her  wrists.  Divorce  is.  allowed  on 
pain  of  a  fine  of  Rs.  50  if  the  divorce  is  sought  by  the 
husband,  and  of  Rs.  25  if  the  wife  asks  for  it.  In  some 
localities  divorce  and  also  polygamy  are  said  to  be  forbidden, 
and  in  such  cases  a  woman  who  commits  adultery  is  finally 
expelled  from  the  caste,  and  a  funeral  feast  is  given  to  sym- 
bolise her  death. 

The  family  god  of  the  Agharias  is  Dulha  Deo,  who  exists  4-  Reii- 

1  111  /->.  ITT  .'I  ,1  gious  and 

m  every  household.      On  the  Haraiti  day  or  the  commence-  ^^^^^^ 
ment  of  the  agricultural  year  they  worship  the  implements  customs. 


of  cultivation,  and  at  Dasahra  the  sword  if  they  have  one. 
They  have  a  great  reverence  for  cows  and  feed  them  sump- 
tuously at  festivals.  Every  Agharia  has  a  giwu  or  spiritual 
guide  who  whispers  the  mantra  or  sacred  verse  into  his  ear 
and  is  occasionally  consulted.  The  dead  are  usually  burnt, 
but  children  and  persons  dying  of  cholera  or  smallpox  are 
buried,  males  being  placed  on  the  pyre  or  in  the  grave  on 
their  faces  and  females  on  their  backs,  with  the  feet  pointing 
to  the  south.  On  the  third  day  the  ashes  are  thrown  into  a 
river  and  the  bones  of  each  part  of  the  body  are  collected 
and  placed  under  the  pipal  tree,  while  a  pot  is  slung  over 
them,  through  which  water  trickles  continually  for  a  week, 
and  a  lighted  lamp,  cooked  food,  a  leaf-cup  and  a  tooth-stick 
are  placed  beside  them  daily  for  the  use  of  the  deceased 
during  the  same  period.  Mourning  ends  on  the  tenth  day, 
and  the  usual  purification  ceremonies  are  then  performed. 
Children  are  mourned  for  a  shorter  period.  Well -to -do 
members  of  the  caste  feed  a  Brahman  daily  for  a  year  after 
a  death,  believing  that  food  so  given  passes  to  the  spirit  of 
the  deceased.  On  the  anniversary  of  the  death  the  caste- 
fellows  are  feasted,  and  after  that  the  deceased  becomes  a 
purkha  or  ancestor  and  participates  in  devotions  paid  at 
the  shrddhh  ceremony.  When  the  head  of  a  joint  family 
dies,  his  successor  is  given  a  turban  and  betel-leaves,  and  his 
forehead  is  marked  by  the  priest  and  other  relations  with 
sandalwood.  After  a  birth  the  mother  is  impure  for  twenty- 
one  days.  A  feast  is  given  on  the  twelfth  day,  and  sometimes 
the  child  is  named  then,  but  often  children  are  not  named 
until  they  are  six  years  old.  The  names  of  men  usually 
end  in  Ram,  Ndth  or  Singh,  and  those  of  women  in  Kunwa^-. 
Women  do  not  name  their  husbands,  their  elderly  relations, 
nor  the  sons  of  their  husband's  eldest  brother.  A  man  does 
not  name  his  wife,  as  he  thinks  that  to  do  so  would  tend  to 
shorten  his  life  in  accordance  with  the  Sanskrit  saying,  '  He 
who  is  desirous  of  long  life  should  not  name  himself,  his  guru, 
a  miser,  his  eldest  son,  or  his  wife.'  The  Agharias  do  not 
admit  outsiders  into  the  caste.  They  will  not  take  cooked 
food  from  any  caste,  and  water  only  from  a  Gaur  or  Rawat. 
They  refuse  to  take  water  from  an  Uriya  Brahman,  probably 
in    retaliation   for   the   refusal  of  Uriya  Brahmans   to  accept 

II  Acr/ORr  13 

water  from  an  Ajrharfa,  thoui;h  taking  it  from  a  Kolta. 
Both  the  Uriya  Brahmans  and  Agharias  are  of  somewhat 
doubtful  origin,  and  both  are  therefore  probably  the  more 
concerned  to  maintain  the  social  position  to  which  they  lay 
claim.  But  Kewats,  Rawats,  Telis  and  other  castes  eat 
cooked  food  from  Agharias,  and  the  caste  therefore  is 
admitted  to  a  fairly  high  rank  in  the  Uriya  country.  The 
Agharias  do  not  drink  liquor  or  eat  any  food  which  a  Rajput 
would  refuse. 

As  cultivators  they  are  considered  to  be  proficient.  In  5.  Occupa- 
the  census  of  1901  nearly  a  quarter  of  the  whole  caste  were  ''°"' 
shown  as  malguzars  or  village  proprietors  and  lessees.  They 
wear  a  coarse  cloth  of  homespun  yarn  which  they  get  woven 
for  them  by  Gandas  ;  probably  in  consequence  of  this  the 
Agharias  do  not  consider  the  touch  of  the  Ganda  to  pollute 
them,  as  other  castes  do.  They  will  not  grow  turmeric, 
onions,  garlic,  i-<a:;^-hemp  or  tomatoes,  nor  will  they  rear  tasar 
silk-cocoons.  Colonel  Dalton  says  that  their  women  do  no  out- 
door work,  and  this  is  true  in  the  Central  Provinces  as  regards 
the  better  classes,  but  poor  women  work  in  the  fields. 

Aghori,  Ag'horpanthi.^ — The  most  disreputable  class  of  i.  General 
Saiva  mendicants  who  feed  on  human  corpses  and  excre-  accounts 
ment,  and  in  past  times  practised  cannibalism.  The  sect  is  caste. 
apparently  an  ancient  one,  a  supposed  reference  to  it  being 
contained  in  the  Sanskrit  drama  Malati  Mdd/iava,  the  hero 
of  which  rescues  his  mistress  from  being  offered  as  a  sacri- 
fice by  one  named  Aghori  Ghanta.^  According  to  Lassen, 
quoted  by  Sir  H.  Risley,  the  Aghoris  of  the  present  day  are 
closely  connected  with  the  Kapalika  sect  of  the  Middle  Ages, 
who  wore  crowns  and  necklaces  of  skulls  and  offered  human 
sacrifices  to  Chamunda,  a  form  of  Devi,  The  Aghoris  now 
represent  their  filthy  habits  as  merely  giving  practical  ex- 
pression to  the  abstract  doctrine  that  the  whole  universe  is 
full  of  Brahma,  and  consequently  that  one  thing  is  as  pure 
as  another.  By  eating  the  most  horrible  food  they  utterly 
subdue  their  natural  appetites,  and  hence  acquire  great  power 

1  This  article  is  mainly  based  on  a       Aiithr.  Soc.  Bombay,  iii.  p.   197. 
paper   on   Aghoris   and  Aghorpanthis,  ^  Bhattacharya,   Hindu    Casles   and 

by  Mr.  H.  W.  Barrow,  in  Ihe  Journal      Sects,  p.  392. 


over  themselves  and  over  the  forces  of  nature.  It  is  believed 
that  an  Aghori  can  at  will  assume  the  shapes  of  a  bird,  an 
animal  or  a  fish,  and  that  he  can  bring  back  to  life  a  corpse 
of  which  he  has  eaten  a  part.  The  principal  resort  of  the 
Aghoris  appears  to  be  at  Benares  and  at  Girnar  near  Mount 
Abu,  and  they  wander  about  the  country  as  solitary  mendi- 
cants. A  few  reside  in  Saugor,  and  they  are  occasionally 
met  with  in  other  places.  They  are  much  feared  and  disliked 
by  the  people  owing  to  their  practice  of  extorting  alms  by 
the  threat  to  carry  out  their  horrible  practices  before  the  eyes 
of  their  victims,  and  by  throwing  filth  into  their  houses. 
Similarly  they  gash  and  cut  their  limbs  so  that  the  crime  of 
blood  may  rest  on  those  who  refuse  to  give.  "  For  the  most 
part,"  Mr.  Barrow  states,^  "  the  Aghorpanthis  lead  a  wander- 
ing life,  are  without  homes,  and  prefer  to  dwell  in  holes, 
clefts  of  rocks  and  hwxmw^-ghdts.  They  do  not  cook,  but 
eat  the  fragments  given  them  in  charity  as  received,  which 
they  put  as  far  as  may  be  into  the  cavity  of  the  skull  used 
as  a  begging-bowl.  The  bodies  of  chelas  (disciples)  who  die 
in  Benares  are  thrown  into  the  Ganges,  but  the  dead  who 
die  well  off  are  placed  in  coffins.  As  a  rule,  Aghoris  do  not 
care  what  becomes  of  their  bodies,  but  when  buried  they  are 
placed  in  the  grave  sitting  cross-legged.  The  Aghori  gurus 
keep  dogs,  which  may  be  of  any  colour,  and  are  said  to  be 
maintained  for  purposes  of  protection.  The  dogs  are  not  all 
pariahs  of  the  streets,  although  some  gurus  are  followed  by 
three  or  four  when  on  pilgrimage.  Occasionally  the  dogs 
seem  to  be  regarded  with  real  affection  by  their  strange 
masters.  The  Aghori  is  believed  to  hold  converse  with  all 
the  evil  spirits  frequenting  the  burning-^/^5/j-,  and  funeral 
parties  must  be  very  badly  off  who  refuse  to  pay  him  some- 
thing. In  former  days  he  claimed  five  pieces  of  wood  at  each 
funeral  in  Benares  ;  but  the  Doms  interfere  with  his  perqui- 
sites, and  in  some  cases  only  let  him  carry  off  the  remains  of 
the  unburned  wood  from  each  pyre.  When  angered  and 
excited,  Aghoris  invoke  Kali  and  threaten  to  spread  devasta- 
tion around  them.  Even  among  the  educated  classes,  who 
should  know  better,  they  arc  dreaded,  and  as  an  instance  of 
the  terror  which  they  create  among  the  ignorant,  it  may  be 

1  Aghoris  and  Aghorpanthis,  pp.  224,  226. 



't)se,  (_  iuio..   iJdrby. 


mentioned  that  in  the  Lucknow  District  it  is  believed  that 
if  ahns  are  refused  them  the  Aghoris  will  cause  those  who 
refuse  to  be  attacked  with  fever. 

"  On  the  other  hand,  their  good  offices  may  secure  bene- 
fits, as  in  the  case  of  a  zamlndar  of  Muzaffarnagar,  who  at 
Allahabad  refused  to  eat  a  piece  of  human  flesh  offered  to 
him  by  an  Aghori  ;  the  latter  thereupon  threw  the  flesh  at  the 
zamlndar's  head,  on  which  it  stuck.  The  zamlndar  afterwards 
became  so  exceedingly  wealthy  that  he  had  difficulty  in 
storing  his  wealth." 

In  former  times  it  is  believed  that  the  Aghoris  used  to 
kidnap  strangers,  sacrifice  them  to  the  goddess  and  eat  the 
bodies,  and  Mr.  Barrow  relates  the  following  incident  of  the  ism. 
murder  of  a  boy:  ^  "Another  horrible  case,  unconnected  with 
magic  and  apparently  arising  from  mere  blood-thirst,  occurred 
at  Neirad  in  June  1878.  An  Aghori  mendicant  of  Dwarka 
staying  at  the  temple  of  Sitaram  Laldas  seized  a  boy  of  twelve, 
named  Shankar  Ramdas,  who  was  playing  with  two  other 
boys,  threw  him  down  on  the  ^(^//ir?  of  the  temple,  ripped  open 
his  abdomen,  tore  out  part  of  his  entrails,  and,  according  to 
the  poor  little  victim's  dying  declaration,  began  to  eat  them. 
The  other  boys  having  raised  an  alarm,  the  monster  was 
seized.  When  interrogated  by  the  magistrate  as  to  whether 
he  had  committed  the  crime  in  order  to  perform  Aghorbidya, 
the  prisoner  said  that  as  the  boy  was  Bhakshan  he  had  eaten 
his  flesh.  He  added  that  if  he  had  not  been  interrupted  he 
would  have  eaten  all  the  entrails.  He  was  convicted,  but 
only  sentenced  to  transportation  for  life.  The  High  Court, 
however,  altered  the  sentence  and  ordered  the  prisoner  to  be 

The  following  instance,  quoted  by  Mr.  Barrow  from 
Rewah,  shows  how  an  Aghori  was  hoist  with  his  own 
petard  :  "  Some  years  ago,  when  Maharaja  Bishnath  Singh 
was  Chief  of  Rewah,  a  man  of  the  Aghori  caste  went  to 
Rewah  and  sat  dhania  on  the  steps  of  the  palace  ;  having 
made  ineffectual  demands  for  alms,  he  requested  to  be  sup- 
plied with  human  flesh,  and  for  five  days  abstained  from 
food.  The  Maharaja  was  much  troubled,  and  at  last,  in  order 
to  get  rid  of  his  unwelcome  visitor,  sent  for  Ghansiam  Das, 

*   Page  208. 


another  Aghori,  a  Fakir,  who  had  for  some  years  Hved  in 
Rewah.  Ghansiam  Das  went  up  to  the  other  Aghori  and 
asked  him  if  it  was  true  that  he  had  asked  to  be  supphed 
with  human  flesh.  On  receiving  a  reply  in  the  affirmative, 
Ghansiam  Das  said  :  '  Very  well,  I  too  am  extremely 
partial  to  this  form  of  food  ;  here  is  my  hand,  eat  it  and  I 
will  eat  you';  and  at  the  same  time  he  seized  hold  of  the 
other's  hand  and  began  to  gnaw  at  it.  The  Aghori  on  this 
became  much  alarmed  and  begged  to  be  excused.  He  shortly 
afterwards  left  Rewah  and  was  not  heard  of  again,  while 
Ghansiam  Das  was  rewarded  for  his  services." 

The  following  recent  instance  of  an  Aghori  devouring 
human  corpses  is  reported  from  the  Punjab  :  ^  "  The  loath- 
some story  of  a  human  ghoul  from  Patiala  shows  that  the 
influence  of  the  Aghorpanthi  has  not  yet  completely  died 
out  in  this  country.  It  is  said  that  for  some  time  past 
human  graves  have  been  found  robbed  of  their  contents, 
and  the  mystery  could  not  be  solved  until  the  other 
day,  when  the  police  succeeded  in  arresting  a  man  in  the 
act  of  desecrating  a  child's  grave,  some  forty  miles  distant 
from  the  capital  (Patiala).  The  ghoul  not  only  did  not 
conceal  the  undevoured  portion  of  the  corpse  he  had  with 
him,  but  told  his  captors  the  whole  story  of  his  gruesome 
career.  He  is  a  low-caste  Hindu  named  Ram  Nath,  and 
is,  according  to  a  gentleman  who  saw  him,  '  a  singularly 
mild  and  respectful-looking  man,  instead  of  a  red-eyed  and 
ravenous  savage,'  as  he  had  expected  to  find  him  from  the 
accounts  of  his  disgusting  propensities.  He  became  an 
orphan  at  five  and  fell  into  the  hands  of  two  Sadhus  of  his 
own  caste,  who  were  evidently  Aghorpanthis.  They  taught 
him  to  eat  human  flesh,  which  formed  the  staple  of  their 
food.  The  meat  was  procured  from  the  graves  in  the  vil- 
lages they  passed  through.  When  Ram  Nath  was  thoroughly 
educated  in  this  rank  the  Sadhus  deserted  him.  Since  then 
he  had  been  living  on  human  carrion  only,  roaming  about 
the  country  like  a  hungry  vulture.  He  cannot  eat  cooked 
food,  and  therefore  gets  two  seers  of  raw  meat  from  the 
State  every  day.      It  is  also  reported  that  the  Maharaja  has 

1    The  Tribune  (Lahore),  November       Ascetics  and  Saints  of  India,  pp.   164, 
29,  1898,  quoted  in  Oman's  Mystics,        165. 


now   prohibited   his   being   given   anj'tliing  but   cooked    food 
with  a  view  to  reforming  liim." 

Sir  J.  B.  Fuller  relates  the  following  incident  of  the 
employment  of  an  Aghori  as  a  servant  •}  "  There  are  actually 
ten  thousand  persons  who  at  census  time  classed  them- 
selves a,s  Aghoris.  All  of  them  do  not  practise  cannibalism 
and  some  of  them  attempt  to  rise  in  the  world.  One  of  them 
secured  service  as  a  cook  with  a  British  officer  of  my  acquaint- 
ance. My  friend  was  in  camp  in  the  jungle  with  his  wife 
and  children,  when  his  other  servants  came  to  him  in  a  body 
and  refused  to  remain  in  service  unless  the  cook  was  dis- 
missed, since  they  had  discovered,  they  declared,  that  during 
the  night-time  he  visited  cemeteries  and  dug  up  the  bodies 
of  freshly  buried  cliildren.  The  cook  was  absent,  but  they 
pointed  to  a  box  of  his  that  emitted  a  sickening  smell.  The 
man  was  incontinently  expelled,  but  for  long  afterwards  the 
family  were  haunted  by  reminiscences  of  the  curries  they 
had  eaten." 

'   Studies  of  Indian  Life  mid  Sen/iweiif,  p.  44. 




1 .  Gefteral  notice.  i  o.   Birth  customs. 

2.  Former  dominance  of  the  Al>-       ii.  Fiaieralj-ites.      Bringing  back 

hiras.  the  soul. 

3.  A/ur  dialects.  12.   Religion.      Kj-ishna  and  other 

4.  Tlie  Yddavas  and  Kjishna.  deified  cowherds. 

5.  TJie  modern  Ahlrs  an  occitpa-  13.   Caste  deities. 

tional  caste.  1 4.    Other  deities. 

6.  Subcastes.  15.    The  Diivdli  festival. 

7.  The     Dauwa     or    ivet-77urse       16.    Omens. 

Ahirs.      Fosterage.  17.   Social  customs. 

8.  Exogamy.  18.    Or7taments. 
g.   Marriage  customs.  19.    Occupation. 

20.   Preparations  of  milk. 

Ahir,^  Gaoli,  Guala,  Golkar,  Gaolan,  Rawat,  Gahra, 
Mahakul. — The  caste  of  cowherds,  milkmen  and  cattle- 
breeders.  In  191  I  the  Ahlrs  numbered  nearly  750,000 
persons  in  the  Central  Provinces  and  Berar,  being  the 
sixth  caste  in  point  of  numbers.  This  figure,  however, 
excludes  150,000  Gowaris  or  graziers  of  the  IMaratha 
Districts,  and  if  these  were  added  the  Ahlrs  would  out- 
number the  Telis  and  rank  fifth.  The  name  Ahir  is  derived 
from  Abhlra,  a  tribe  mentioned  several  times  in  inscriptions 
and  the  Hindu  sacred  books.  Goala,  a  cowherd,  from 
Gopala,'*^  a  protector  of  cows,  is  the  Bengali  name  for  the 
caste,  and  Gaoli,  with  the  same  signification,  is  now  used  in 
the  Central  Provinces  to  signify  a  dairyman  as  opposed  to 
a  grazier.  The  Gaolans  appear  to  be  an  inferior  class  of 
Gaolis  in  Berar.  The  Golkars  of  Chanda  may  be  derived 
from     the     Telugu     Golars    or     graziers,    with    a     probable 

'  The      information      about      birth       Nandgaon  State, 
customs  in  this  article  is  from  a  paper  "   Go,  gau    or   gai,  an  ox   or   cow, 

by  Mr.  Kalika  Prasad,  Tahsildar,  Riij-       and  pat  01  fdlai,  guardian. 



admixture  of  Goncl  blood.  They  are  described  as  wild- 
looking  people  scattered  about  in  the  most  thickly  forested 
tracts  of  the  District,  where  they  graze  and  tend  cattle. 
Rawat,  a  corruption  of  Rajputra  or  a  princeling,  is  the  name 
borne  by  the  Ahir  caste  in  Chhattlsgarh  ;  while  Gahra  is 
their  designation  in  the  Uriya  country.  The  Mahakul 
Ahirs  are  a  small  group  found  in  the  Jashpur  State,  and 
said  to  belong  to  the  Nandvansi  division.  The  name  means 
'  Great  family.' 

The  Abhlras  appear  to  have  been  one  of  the  immigrant  2.  Former 
tribes  from  Central  Asia  who  entered  India  shortly  before  or  '^°™"a"ce 
about  the  commencement  of  the  Christian  era.  In  the  Puranas  Abhiras. 
and  Mahilbharata  they  are  spoken  of  as  Dasyu  or  robbers, 
and  Mlechchhas  or  foreigners,  in  the  story  which  says  that 
Arjuna,  after  he  had  burned  the  dead  bodies  of  Krishna  and 
Balaram  at  Dwiirka,  was  proceeding  with  the  widows  of  the 
Yadava  princes  to  Mathura  through  the  Punjab  when  he  was 
waylaid  by  the  Abhlras  and  deprived  of  his  treasures  and 
beautiful  women. ^  An  inscription  of  the  Saka  era  102, 
or  A.D.  180,  speaks  of  a  grant  made  by  the  Senapati  or 
commander-in-chief  of  the  state,  who  is  called  an  Abhlra, 
the  locality  being  Sunda  in  Kathiawar.  Another  inscription 
found  in  Nasik  and  assigned  by  Mr.  Enthoven  to  the  fourth 
century  speaks  of  an  Abhlra  king,  and  the  Puranas  say  that 
after  the  Andhrabhrityas  the  Deccan  was  held  by  the 
Abhlras,  the  west  coast  tract  from  the  Tapti  to  Deogarh 
being  called  by  their  name.^  In  the  time  of  Samudragupta 
in  the  middle  of  the  fourth  century  the  Abhiras  were  settled 
in  Eastern  Rajputana  and  Malwa.^  When  the  Kathis  arrived 
in  Gujarat  in  the  eighth  century,  they  found  the  greater  part 
of  the  country  in  the  possession  of  the  Ahlrs.^  In  the 
Mirzapur  District  of  the  United  Provinces  a  tract  known  as 
Ahraura  is  considered  to  be  named  after  the  tribe  ;  and  near 
Jhansi  another  piece  of  country  is  called  Ahlrwar.^  Elliot 
states  that  AhIrs  were  also  Rajas  of  Nepal  about  the  com- 
mencement of  our  era.^      In  Khandesh,  Mr.  Enthoven  states, 

^   Ind.   Ant.   (Jan.    1911),    'Foreign  ^  Early  History  of  India,   3rd   ed. 

Elements  in  the  Hindu  Population,'  by  p.  286. 

Mr.  D.  R.  Bhandarkar.  •*   Elliot,  ibide?>!. 

^  Elliot,  Supplemental  Glossary,  s.v.  ^  Bombay  Monograph  on  Ahir. 

Ahir.  6  Elliot,  ibidem. 


the  settlements  of  the  Ahirs  were  important.  In  many  castes 
there  is  a  separate  division  of  AhIrs,  such  as  the  Ahir  Sunars, 
Sutars,  Lohars,  Shimpis,  Sails,  Guraos  and  Kolis.  The  fort 
of  Asirgarh  in  Nimar  bordering  on  Khandesh  is  supposed 
to  have  been  founded  by  one  Asa  AhIr,  who  lived  in  the 
beginning  of  the  fifteenth  century.  It  is  said  that  his 
ancestors  had  held  land  here  for  seven  hundred  years,  and 
he  had  io,ooo  cattle,  20,000  sheep  and  1000  mares,  with 
2000  followers  ;  but  was  still  known  to  the  people,  to 
whom  his  benevolence  had  endeared  him,  by  the  simple 
name  of  Asa.  This  derivation  of  Asirgarh  is  clearly 
erroneous,  as  it  was  known  as  Asir  or  Asirgarh,  and  held 
by  the  Tak  and  Chauhan  Rajputs  from  the  eleventh  century. 
But  the  story  need  not  on  that  account,  Mr.  Grant  says,^  be 
set  down  as  wholly  a  fable.  Firishta,  who  records  it,  has 
usually  a  good  credit,  and  more  probably  the  real  existence 
of  a  line  of  Ahir  chieftains  in  the  Tapti  valley  suggested  a 
convenient  ethnology  for  the  fortress.  Other  traditions  of 
the  past  domination  of  the  pastoral  tribes  remain  in  the 
Central  Provinces.  Deogarh  on  the  Chhindwara  plateau 
was,  according  to  the  legend,  the  last  seat  of  Gaoli  power 
prior  to  its  subversion  by  the  Gonds  in  the  sixteenth 
century.  Jatba,  the  founder  of  the  Deogarh  Gond 
dynasty,  is  said  to  have  entered  the  service  of  the  Gaoli 
rulers,  Mansur  and  Gansur,  and  subsequently  with  the  aid 
of  the  goddess  Devi  to  have  slain  them  and  usurped  their 
kingdom.  But  a  Gaoli  chief  still  retained  possession  of  the 
fort  of  Narnfda  for  a  few  years  longer,  when  he  also  was 
slain  by  the  Muhammadans.  Similarly  the  fort  of  Gawilgarh 
on  the  southern  crest  of  the  Satpuras  is  said  to  be  named 
after  a  Gaoli  chief  who  founded  it.  The  Saugor  traditions 
bring  down  the  Gaoli  supremacy  to  a  much  later  date,  as 
the  tracts  of  Etawa  and  Khurai  are  held  to  have  been 
governed  by  their  chieftains  till  the  close  of  the  seventeenth 

Certain  dialects  called  after  the  Abhiras  or  AhIrs  still 

remain.      One,  known  as  Ahlrwati,  is  spoken  in  the  Rohtak 

and  Gurgaon  Districts  of  the  Punjab  and  round  Delhi.      This 

is   akin   to   Mewati,   one  of  the   forms  of  Rajasthani   or  the 

^  Central  Provinces  Gazetteer  (1S71),  Introduction. 



lancjuac^c  of  Rajputfina.  The  Malwi  dialect  of  Rajasthani 
is  also  known  as  Ahiri  ;  and  that  curious  form  of  Gujarati, 
which  is  half  a  l>hil  dialect,  and  is  generally  known  as 
Khandeshi,  also  bears  the  name  of  Ahlrani.^  The  above 
linguistic  facts  seem  to  prove  only  that  the  Abhiras,  or  their 
occupational  successors,  the  Ahlrs,  were  strongly  settled  in  the 
Delhi  country  of  the  Punjab,  Malwa  and  Khandesh.  They 
do  not  seem  to  throw  much  light  on  the  origin  of  the  Abhiras 
or  Ahlrs,  and  necessarily  refer  only  to  a  small  section  of  the 
existing  Ahir  caste,  the  great  bulk  of  whom  speak  the  Aryan 
language  current  where  they  dwell.  Another  authority 
states,  however,  that  the  Ahlrs  of  Gujarat  still  retain  a 
dialect  of  their  own,  and  concludes  that  this  and  the  other 
Ahir  dialects  are  the  remains  of  the  distinct  Abhlra  language. 

It  cannot  necessarily  be  assumed  that  all  the  above  4.  The 
traditions  relate  to  the  Abhlra  tribe  proper,  of  which  the  ^^"^'^^^^ 
modern  Ahir  caste  are  scarcely  more  than  the  nominal  Krishna. 
representatives.  Nevertheless,  it  may  fairly  be  concluded 
from  them  that  the  Abhiras  were  widely  spread  over  India 
and  dominated  considerable  tracts  of  country.  They  are 
held  to  have  entered  India  about  the  same  time  as  the 
Sakas,  who  settled  in  Gujarat,  among  other  places,  and,  as 
seen  above,  the  earliest  records  of  the  Abhiras  show  them  in 
Nasik  and  Kathiawar,  and  afterwards  widely  spread  in 
Khandesh,  that  is,  in  the  close  neighbourhood  of  the  Sakas. 
It  has  been  suggested  in  the  article  on  Rajput  that  the 
Yadava  and  other  lunar  clans  of  Rajputs  may  be  the 
representatives  of  the  Sakas  and  other  nomad  tribes  who 
invaded  India  shortly  before  and  after  the  Christian  era. 
The  god  Krishna  is  held  to  have  been  the  leader  of  the 
Yadavas,  and  to  have  founded  with  them  the  sacred  city  of 
Dwarka  in  Gujarat.  The  modern  Ahlrs  have  a  subdivision 
called  Jaduvansi  or  Yaduvansi,  that  is,  of  the  race  of  the 
Yadavas,  and  they  hold  that  Krishna  was  of  the  Ahir  tribe. 
Since  the  Abhiras  were  also  settled  in  Gujarat  it  is  possible 
that  they  may  have  been  connected  with  the  Yadavas,  and 
that  this  may  be  the  foundation  for  their  claim  that  Krishna 
was  of  their  tribe.  The  Dyashraya-Kavya  of  Hemachandra 
speaks  of  a  Chordasama  prince  reigning  near  Junagarh  as 

^  Linguistic  Survey  of  India,  vol.  ix.  part  ii.  p.  50. 


an  Abhira  and  a  Yadava.  But  this  is  no  doubt  very  con- 
jectural, and  the  simple  fact  that  Krishna  was  a  herdsman 
would  be  a  sufficient  reason  for  the  Ahirs  to  claim  connection 
with  him.  It  is  pointed  out  that  the  names  of  Abhira 
chieftains  given  in  the  early  inscriptions  are  derived  from 
the  god  Siva,  and  this  would  not  have  been  the  case  if  they 
had  at  that  epoch  derived  their  origin  from  Krishna,  an 
incarnation  of  Vishnu.  "If  the  Abhiras  had  really  been 
the  descendants  of  the  cowherds  (Gopas)  whose  hero  was 
Krishna,  the  name  of  the  rival  god  Siva  would  never  have 
formed  components  of  the  names  of  the  Abhiras,  whom  we 
find  mentioned  in  inscriptions.  Hence  the  conclusion  may 
safely  be  drawn  that  the  Abhiras  were  by  no  means  connected 
'with  Krishna  and  his  cowherds  even  as  late  as  about  A.D. 
300,  to  which  date  the  first  of  the  two  inscriptions  mentioned 
above  is  to  be  assigned.  Precisely  the  same  conclusion  is 
.pointed  to  by  the  contents  of  the  Harivansha  and  Bhagwat 
Purana.  The  upbringing  of  Krishna  among  the  cowherds 
and  his  flirtations  with  the  milkmaids  are  again  and  again 
mentioned  in  these  works,  but  the  word  Abhira  does  not 
occur  even  once  in  this  connection.  The  only  words  we 
find  used  are  Gopa,  Gopi  and  Vraja.  This  is  indeed 
remarkable.  For  the  descriptions  of  the  removal  of  Krishna 
as  an  infant  to  Nanda,  the  cowherd's  hut,  of  his  childhood 
passed  in  playing  with  the  cowherd  boys,  and  of  his  youth 
spent  in  amorous  sports  with  the  milkmaids  are  set  forth  at 
great  length,  but  the  word  Abhira  is  not  once  met  with. 
From  this  only  one  conclusion  is  possible,  that  is,  that  the 
yVbhiras  did  not  originally  represent  the  Gopas  of  Krishna. 
The  word  Abhira  occurs  for  the  first  time  in  connection  with 
the  Krishna  legend  about  A.D.  550,  from  which  it  follows 
that  the  Abhiras  came  to  be  identified  with  the  Gopas  shortly 
before  that  date."  ^ 

This  argument  is  interesting  as  showing  that  Abhira  was 
not  originally  an  occupational  term  for  a  herdsman,  nor  a  caste 
name,  but  belonged  to  an  immigrant  tribe.  Owing  apparently 
to  the  fact  that  the  Abhiras,  like  the  Gujars,  devoted  them- 
selves to  a  pastoral  mode  of  life  in  India,  whereas  the 
previous  Aryan  immigrants  had  settled  down  to  cultivation, 
'  Bombay  Ethnographic  Stcfvey. 


they  fravc  their  name  to  the  i^rcat  occujjational  caste  of 
herdsmen  which  was  subsequently  develo[)ed,  and  of  which 
they  may  originally  have  constituted  the  nucleus.  The 
Gujars,  who  came  to  India  at  a  later  period,  form  a  parallel 
case  ;  although  the  Giljar  caste,  which  is  derived  from  them, 
is  far  less  important  than  the  Ahlr,  the  Gujars  have  also 
been  the  parents  of  several  Rajpiit  clans.  The  reason  why 
the  early  Mathura  legends  of  Krishna  make  no  mention  of 
the  Ahirs  may  be  that  the  deity  Krishna  is  probably  com- 
pounded of  at  least  two  if  not  more  distinct  personalities. 
One  is  the  hero  chief  of  the  Yadavas,  who  fought  in  the 
battle  of  the  Pandavas  and  Kauravas,  migrated  to  Gujarat 
and  was  killed  there.  As  he  was  chief  of  the  Yadavas  this 
Krishna  must  stand  for  the  actual  or  mythical  personality 
of  some  leader  of  the  immigrant  nomad  tribes.  The  other 
Krishna,  the  boy  cowherd,  who  grazed  cattle  and  sported 
writh  the  milkmaids  of  Brindaban,  may  very  probably  be 
some  hero  of  the  indigenous  non-Aryan  tribes,  who,  then  as 
now,  lived  in  the  forests  and  were  shepherds  and  herdsmen. 
His  lowly  birth  from  a  labouring  cowherd,  and  the  fact  that 
his  name  means  black  and  he  is  represented  in  sculpture  as 
being  of  a  dark  colour,  lend  support  to  this  view.  The  cult 
of  Krishna,  Mr.  Crooke  points  out,  was  comparatively  late, 
and  probably  connected  with  the  development  of  the  worship 
of  the  cow  after  the  decay  of  Buddhism.  This  latter 
Krishna,  who  is  worshipped  with  his  mother  as  a  child-god, 
was  especially  attractive  to  women,  both  actual  and  pro- 
spective mothers.  It  is  quite  probable  therefore  that  as  his 
worship  became  very  popular  in  Hindustan  in  connection 
with  that  of  the  cow,  he  was  given  a  more  illustrious  origin 
by  identification  with  the  Yadava  hero,  whose  first  home 
was  apparently  in  Gujarat.  In  this  connection  it  may  also 
be  noted  that  the  episodes  connected  with  Krishna  in  the 
Mahabharata  have  been  considered  late  interpolations. 

But  though  the  Ahir  caste  takes  its  name  and  is  perhaps  5.  The 
partly  descended  from  the  Abhlra  tribe,  there  is  no  doubt  "hirsTn 
that  it  is  now  and  has  been  for  centuries  a  purely  occupa-  occupa- 
tional  caste,    largely   recruited    from    the    indigenous    tribes.  ^^^^^^_ 
Thus  in  Bengal  Colonel    Dalton   remarks   that   the   features 
of  the  Mathuravasi  Goalas  are  high,  sharp  and  delicate,  and 


they  are  of  light-brown  complexion.  Those  of  the  Magadha 
subcaste,  on  the  other  hand,  are  undefined  and  coarse.  They 
are  dark-complexioned,  and  have  large  hands  and  feet. 
"  Seeing  the  latter  standing  in  a  group  with  some  Singhbhum 
Kols,  there  is  no  distinguishing  one  from  the  other.  There 
has  doubtless  been  much  mixture  of  blood."  ^  Similarly  in 
the  Central  Provinces  the  Ahirs  are  largely  recruited  from 
the  Gonds  and  other  tribes.  In  Chanda  the  Gowaris  are 
admittedly  descended  from  the  unions  of  Gonds  and  Ahirs, 
and  one  of  their  subcastes,  the  Gond- Gowaris,  are  often 
classed  as  Gonds.  Again,  the  Kaonra  Ahirs  of  Mandla 
are  descended  from  the  unions  of  Ahirs  either  with  the 
Gonds  or  Kawars,  and  many  of  them  are  probably  pure 
Gonds.  They  have  Gond  sept-names  and  eat  pork.  Members 
of  one  of  their  subdivisions,  the  Gond-Kaonra,  will  take  water 
from  Gonds,  and  rank  below  the  other  Kaonras,  from  whom 
they  will  accept  food  and  water.  As  cattle  have  to  go  into 
the  thick  jungles  to  graze  in  the  hot  weather,  the  graziers 
attending  them  become  intimate  with  the  forest  tribes  who 
live  there,  and  these  latter  are  also  often  employed  to  graze 
the  cattle,  and  are  perhaps  after  a  time  admitted  to  the 
Ahir  caste.  Many  Ahirs  in  Mandla  are  scarcely  considered 
to  be  Hindus,  living  as  they  do  in  Gond  villages  in  sole 
company  with  the  Gonds. 

The  principal  subcastes  of  the  Ahirs  in  northern  India 
are  the  Jaduvansi,  Nandvansi  and  Gowalvansi.  The  Jadu- 
vansi  claimed  to  be  descended  from  the  Yadavas,  who  now 
form  the  Yadu  and  Jadon-Bhatti  clans  of  Rajputs.  The 
probability  of  a  historical  connection  between  the  Abhiras 
and  Yadavas  has  already  been  noticed.  The  Nandvansi 
consider  their  first  ancestor  to  have  been  Nand,  the  cowherd, 
the  foster-father  of  Krishna  ;  while  the  name  of  the  Gowal- 
vansi is  simply  Gofda  or  Gauli,  a  milkman,  a  common 
synonym  for  the  caste.  The  Kaonra  Ahirs  of  Mandla  and 
the  Kamarias  of  Jubbulpore  are  considered  to  belong  to  the 
Nandvansi  group.  Other  subcastes  in  the  northern  Districts 
are  the  Jijhotia,  who,  like  the  Jijhotia  Brahmans,  take  their 
name  from  Jajhoti,  the  classical  term  for  Bundelkhand  ;  the 
Bharotia ;  and  the  Narwaria  from  Narwar.  The  Rawats 
*  Quoted  in  Tribes  ajtd  Castes  of  Bengal,  art.  Goala. 


of  Chhattisi^arh  arc  divided  into  the  Jliadia,  Kosaria  and 
Kanaujia  groups.  Of  these  the  Jhadia  or  'jungly,'  and 
Kosaria  from  Kosala,  the  ancient  name  of  the  Chhattlsgarh 
country,  arc  the  oldest  settlers,  while  the  Kanaujia  are  largely 
employed  as  personal  servants  in  Chhattlsgarh,  and  all  castes 
will  take  water  from  their  hands.  The  superior  class  of  them, 
however,  refuse  to  clean  household  cooking  vessels,  and  are 
hence  known  as  Thethwar,  or  exact  or  pure,  as  distinguished 
from  the  other  Rawats,  who  will  perform  this  somewhat 
derogatory  work. 

The  Dauwa  or  wet-nurse  Ahirs  are  descended  from  the  7-  The 
illegitimate  offspring  of  Bundela  Rajput  fathers  by  Ahir  weunur°e 
mothers  who  were  employed  in  this  capacity  in  their  families.  Ahirs. 
An  AhIr  woman  kept  by  a  Bundela  was  known  as  Pardwarin, 
or  one  coming  from  another  house.  This  is  not  considered 
a  disgraceful  origin  ;  though  the  Dauwa  Ahirs  are  not  re- 
cognised by  the  Ahirs  proper,  they  form  a  separate  section 
of  the  caste,  and  Brahmans  will  take  water  from  them.  The 
children  of  such  mothers  stood  in  the  relation  of  foster- 
brothers  to  the  Rajputs,  whom  their  mothers  had  nursed. 
The  giving  of  milk,  in  accordance  with  the  common  primitive 
belief  in  the  virtue  attaching  to  an  action  in  itself,  was  held 
to  constitute  a  relation  of  quasi-maternity  between  the  nurse 
and  infant,  and  hence  of  fraternity  between  her  own  children 
and  her  foster-children.  The  former  were  called  Dhai-bhais 
or  foster-brothers  by  the  Rajputs  ;  they  were  often  given 
permanent  grants  of  land  and  employed  on  confidential 
missions,  as  for  the  arrangement  of  marriages.  The  minister 
of  a  Raja  of  Karauli  was  his  Dauwa  or  foster-father,  the 
husband  of  his  nurse.  Similarly,  Colonel  Tod  says  that  the 
Dhai-bhai  or  foster-brother  of  the  Raja  of  Boondi,  com- 
mandant of  the  fortress  of  Tanagarh,  was,  like  all  his  class, 
devotion  personified.^  A  parallel  instance  of  the  tie  of 
foster-kinship  occurs  in  the  case  of  the  foster-brothers  of 
Conachar  or  Hector  in  The  Fair  Maid  of  Perth.  Thus  the 
position  of  foster-brother  of  a  Rajput  was  an  honourable  one, 
even  though  the  child  might  be  illegitimate.  Ahir  women 
were  often  employed  as  wet-nurses,  because  domestic  service 
was  a  profession  in  which  they  commonly  engaged.      Owing 

^   Rajasthtui,  ii.  p.  639. 


to  the  comparatively  humble  origin  of  a  large  proportion  of 
them  they  did  not  object  to  menial  service,  while  the  purity 
of  their  caste  made  it  possible  to  use  them  for  the  supply  of 
water  and  food.  In  Bengal  the  Uriya  Ahlrs  were  a  common 
class  of  servants  in  European  houses. 

The  Gaolis  or  milkmen  appear  to  form  a  distinct  branch 
of  the  caste  with  subcastes  of  their  own.  Among  them  are 
the  Nandvans,  comm.on  to  the  Ahlrs,  the  Malwi  from  Malwa 
and  the  Raghuvansi,  called  after  the  Rajput  clan  of  that 
name.  The  Ranyas  take  their  designation  from  rdn^  forest, 
like  the  Jhadia  Rawats. 

The  caste  have  exogamous  sections,  which  are  of  the 
usual  low-caste  type,  with  titular  or  totemistic  names.  Those 
of  the  Chhattlsgarhi  Rawats  are  generally  named  after  animals. 
A  curious  name  among  the  Mahakul  Ahirs  is  Mathankata, 
or  one  who  bit  his  mother's  nipples.  The  marriage  of 
persons  belonging  to  the  same  section  and  of  first  cousins 
is  prohibited.  A  man  may  marry  his  wife's  younger  sister 
while  his  wife  is  living,  but  not  her  elder  sister.  The  practice 
of  exchanging  girls  between  families  is  permissible. 

As  a  rule,  girls  may  be  married  before  or  after  puberty,  but 
the  Golkars  of  Chanda  insist  on  infant  marriage,  and  fine  the 
parents  if  an  unmarried  girl  becomes  adolescent.  On  the 
other  hand,  the  Kaonra  Ahlrs  of  Mandla  make  a  practice  of 
not  getting  a  girl  married  till  the  signs  of  puberty  have 
appeared.  It  is  said  that  in  Mandla  if  an  unmarried  girl 
becomes  pregnant  by  a  man  of  the  caste  the  paiicJidyat  give 
her  to  him  and  fine  him  Rs.  2  0  or  30,  which  they  appro- 
priate themselves,  giving  nothing  to  the  father.  If  an  Ahir 
girl  is  seduced  by  an  outsider,  she  is  made  over  to  him,  and 
a  fine  of  Rs.  40  or  50  is  exacted  from  him  if  possible.  This 
is  paid  to  the  girl's  father,  who  has  to  spend  it  on  a  penalty 
feast  to  the  caste.  Generally,  sexual  offences  within  the 
community  are  leniently  regarded.  The  wedding  ceremony 
is  of  the  type  prevalent  in  the  locality.  The  proposal  comes 
from  the  boy's  family,  and  a  price  is  usually  given  for  the 
bride.  The  Kaonra  Ahlrs  of  Mandla  and  the  Jharia  and 
Kosaria  Rawats  of  Chhattlsgarh  employ  a  Brfdiman  only  to 
write  the  lagun  or  paper  fi.xing  the  date  of  the  wedding,  and 
the  ceremony  is  conducted   by  the  sazvdsins  or  relatives  of 



the  parties.  In  Chhatti.s<jaili  the  bridcf^room  is  dressed  as  a 
girl  to  be  taken  to  the  wedding.  In  Betul  the  weddings  of 
most  Gaolis  are  held  in  Magh  (January),  and  that  of  the 
Ranya  subcaste  in  the  bright  fortnight  of  Kartik  (October). 
At  the  ceremony  the  bride  is  made  to  stand  on  a  small  stone 
roller  ;  the  bridegroom  then  takes  hold  of  the  roller  facing 
the  bride  and  goes  round  in  a  circle  seven  times,  turning 
the  roller  with  him.  Widow  remarriage  is  permitted,  and 
a  widow  is  often  expected  to  marry  the  younger  brother  of 
her  deceased  husband.  If  a  bachelor  wishes  to  marry  a 
widow  he  first  goes  through  the  ceremony  with  a  dagger  or 
an  earthen  vessel.  Divorce  is  freely  permitted.  In  Hoshan- 
gabad  a  strip  is  torn  off  the  clothes  worn  by  husband 
and  wife  as  a  sign  of  their  divorce.  This  is  presumably  in 
contrast  to  the  knotting  of  the  clothes  of  the  couple  together 
at  a  wedding. 

Among  the  Rawats  of  Chhattisgarh,  when  a  child  is  10.  Birth 
shortly  to  be  born  the  midwife  dips  her  hand  in  oil  and 
presses  it  on  the  wall,  and  it  is  supposed  that  she  can  tell  by 
the  way  in  which  the  oil  trickles  down  whether  the  child  will 
be  a  boy  or  a  girl.  If  a  woman  is  weak  and  ill  during  her 
pregnancy  it  is  thought  that  a  boy  will  be  born,  but  if  she  is 
strong  and  healthy,  a  girl.  A  woman  in  advanced  pregnancy 
is  given  whatever  she  desires  to  eat,  and  on  one  occasion 
especially  delicate  kinds  of  food  are  served  to  her,  this  rite 
being  known  as  Sidhori.  The  explanation  of  the  custom  is 
that  if  the  mother  does  not  get  the  food  she  desires  during 
pregnancy  the  child  will  long  for  it  all  through  life.  If 
delivery  is  delayed,  a  line  of  men  and  boys  is  sometimes 
made  from  the  door  of  the  house  to  a  well,  and  a  vessel  is 
then  passed  from  hand  to  hand  from  the  house,  filled  with 
water,  and  back  again.  Thus  the  water,  having  acquired  the 
quality  of  speed  during  its  rapid  transit,  will  communicate 
this  to  the  woman  and  cause  her  quick  delivery.  Or  they 
take  some  of  the  clay  left  un moulded  on  the  potter's  wheel 
and  give  it  her  to  drink  in  water  ;  the  explanation  of  this 
is  exactly  similar,  the  earth  having  acquired  the  quality  of 
swiftness  by  the  rapid  transit  on  the  wheel.  If  three  boys 
or  three  girls  have  been  born  to  a  woman,  they  think  that 
the  fourth  should   be  of  the  same  sex,  in  order  to  make  up 

28  AHiR  PART 

two  pairs.  A  boy  or  girl  born  after  three  of  the  opposite 
sex  is  called  Titra  or  Titri,  and  is  considered  very  unlucky. 
To  avert  this  misfortune  they  cover  the  child  with  a  basket, 
kindle  a  fire  of  grass  all  round  it,  and  smash  a  brass  pot  on 
the  floor.  Then  they  say  that  the  baby  is  the  fifth  and  not 
the  fourth  child,  and  the  evil  is  thus  removed.  When  one 
woman  gives  birth  to  a  male  and  another  to  a  female  child 
in  the  same  quarter  of  a  village  on  the  same  day  and  they 
are  attended  by  the  same  midwife,  it  is  thought  that  the  boy 
child  will  fall  ill  from  the  contagion  of  the  girl  child  com- 
municated through  the  midwife.  To  avoid  this,  on  the 
following  Sunday  the  child's  maternal  uncle  makes  a  banghy, 
which  is  carried  across  the  shoulders  like  a  large  pair  of 
scales,  and  weighs  the  child  in  it  against  cowdung.  He  then 
takes  the  banghy  and  deposits  it  at  cross-roads  outside  the 
village.  The  father  cannot  see  either  the  child  or  its  mother 
till  after  the  Chathi  or  sixth-day  ceremony  of  purification, 
when  the  mother  is  bathed  and  dressed  in  clean  clothes,  the 
males  of  the  family  are  shaved,  all  their  clothes  are  washed, 
and  the  house  is  whitewashed  ;  the  child  is  also  named  on 
this  day.  The  mother  cannot  go  out  of  doors  until  after  the 
Barhi  or  twelfth -day  ceremony.  If  a  child  is  born  at  an 
unlucky  astrological  period  its  ears  are  pierced  in  the  fifth 
month  after  birth  as  a  means  of  protection. 
1 1.  Funeral  The  dead  are   either  buried   or  burnt.      When   a   man    is 

Bringing  '^y''"'?  they  put  basil  leaves  and  boiled  rice  and  milk  in  his 
back  the  moutli,  and  a  little  piece  of  gold,  or  if  they  have  not  got 
gold  they  put  a  rupee  in  his  mouth  and  take  it  out  again. 
For  ten  days  after  a  death,  food  in  a  leaf-cup  and  a  lamp  are 
set  out  in  the  house-yard  every  evening,  and  every  morning 
water  and  a  tooth-stick.  On  the  tenth  day  they  are  taken 
away  and  consigned  to  a  river.  In  Chhattisgarh  on  the 
third  day  after  death  the  soul  is  brought  back.  The  women 
put  a  lamp  on  a  red  earthen  pot  and  go  to  a  tank  or 
stream  at  night.  The  fish  are  attracted  towards  the  light, 
and  one  of  them  is  caught  and  put  in  the  pot,  which  is  then 
filled  with  water.  It  is  brought  home  and  set  beside  a  small 
heap  of  flour,  and  the  elders  sit  round  it.  The  son  of  the 
deceased  or  other  near  relative  anoints  himself  with  turmeric 
and   picks  up  a  stone.      This  is  washed  with  the  water  from 



ihc  pot,  and  placed  on  the  floor,  and  a  sacrifice  of  a  cock  or 
hen  is  made  to  it  accordinq^  as  the  deceased  was  a  man  or  a 
woman.  The  stone  is  then  enshrined  in  the  house  as  a 
family  god,  and  the  sacrifice  of  a  fowl  is  repeated  annually.  It 
ij.  supposed  apparently  that  the  dead  man's  spirit  is  brouc^ht 
';ack  to  the  house  in  the  fish,  and  then  transferred  to  the 
:tone  by  washing  this  with  the  water. 

The  Ahirs  have  a  special  relation  to  the  Hindu  religion,  12.  Re- 
owing  to  their  association  with  the  sacred  cow,  which  is  itself  i!f,.'°hna 
revered  as  a  goddess.  When  religion  gets  to  the  anthropo-  ;^"'i  «ihcr 
morphic  stage  the  cowherd,  who  partakes  of  the  cow's  sanctity,  cowherds, 
may  be  deified  as  its  representative.  This  was  probably  the 
case  with  Krishna,  one  of  the  most  popular  gods  of  Hinduism, 
who  was  a  cowherd,  and,  as  he  is  represented  as  being  of  a 
dark  colour,  may  even  have  been  held  to  be  of  the  indigenous 
races.  Though,  according  to  the  legend,  he  was  really  of 
royal  birth,  Krishna  was  brought  up  by  Nand,  a  herdsman  of 
Gokul,  and  Jasoda  or  Dasoda  his  wife,  and  in  the  popular 
belief  these  are  his  parents,  as  they  probably  were  in  the 
original  story.  The  substitution  of  Krishna,  born  as  a  prince, 
for  Jasoda's  daughter,  in  order  to  protect  him  from  destruc- 
tion by  the  evil  king  Kansa  of  Mathura,  is  perhaps  a  later 
gloss,  devised  when  his  herdsman  parentage  was  considered 
too  obscure  for  the  divine  hero.  Krishna's  childhood  in 
Jasoda's  house  with  his  miraculous  feats  of  strength  and  his 
amorous  sports  with  Radha  and  the  other  milkmaids  of  Brinda- 
wan,  are  among  the  most  favourite  Hindu  legends.  Govind 
and  Gopal,  the  protector  or  guardian  of  cows,  are  names  of 
Krishna  and  the  commonest  names  of  Hindus,  as  are  also 
his  other  epithets,  Murlidhar  and  Bansidhar,  the  flute-player ; 
for  Krishna  and  Balaram,  like  Greek  and  Roman  shepherds, 
were  accustomed  to  divert  themselves  with  song,  to  the 
accompaniment  of  the  same  instrument.  The  child  Krishna 
is  also  very  popular,  and  his  birthday,  the  Janam-Ashtami 
on  the  8th  of  dark  Bhadon  (August),  is  a  great  festival.  On 
this  day  potsful  of  curds  are  sprinkled  over  the  assembled 
worshippers.  Krishna,  however,  is  not  the  solitary  instance 
of  the  divine  cowherd,  but  has  several  companions,  humble 
indeed  compared  to  him,  but  perhaps  owing  their  apotheosis 
to  the  same  reasons,      Bhilat,  a  popular  local  godling  of  the 



Nerbudda  Valley,  was  the  son  of  an  Ahir  or  Gaoli  woman  ; 
she  was  childless  and  prayed  to  Parvati  for  a  child,  and  the 
goddess  caused  her  votary  to  have  one  by  her  own  husband,  the 
god  Mahadeo.  Bhilat  was  stolen  away  from  his  home  by 
Mahadeo  in  the  disguise  of  a  beggar,  and  grew  up  to  be  a 
great  hero  and  made  many  conquests  ;  but  finally  he  returned 
and  lived  with  his  herdsman  parents,  who  were  no  doubt  his 
real  ones.  He  performed  numerous  miracles,  and  his  devotees 
are  still  possessed  by  his  spirit.  Singaji  is  another  godling 
who  was  a  Gaoli  by  caste  in  Indore.  He  became  a  disciple  of 
a  holy  Gokulastha  Gosain  or  ascetic,  and  consequently  a 
great  observer  of  the  Janam-Ashtami  or  Krishna's  birthday.^ 
On  one  occasion  Singaji  was  late  for  prayers  on  this  day,  and 
the  guru  was  very  angry,  and  said  to  him,  '  Don't  show 
your  face  to  me  again  until  you  are  dead.'  Singaji  went 
home  and  told  the  other  children  he  was  going  to  die.  Then 
he  went  and  buried  himself  alive.  The  occurrence  was 
noised  abroad  and  came  to  the  ears  of  the  guru,  who  was 
much  distressed,  and  proceeded  to  offer  his  condolences  to 
Singaji's  family.  But  on  the  way  he  saw  Singaji,  who  had 
been  miraculously  raised  from  the  dead  on  account  of  his 
virtuous  act  of  obedience,  grazing  his  buffaloes  as  before. 
After  asking  for  milk,  which  Singaji  drew  from  a  male 
buffalo  calf,  the  gm-u  was  able  to  inform  the  bereaved  parents 
of  their  son's  joyful  reappearance  and  his  miraculous  powers  ; 
of  these  Singaji  gave  further  subsequent  demonstration,  and 
since  his  death,  said  to  have  occurred  350  years  ago,  is 
widely  venerated.  The  Gaolis  pray  to  him  for  the 
protection  of  their  cattle  from  disease,  and  make  thank- 
offerings  of  butter  if  these  prayers  are  fulfilled.  Other 
pilgrims  to  Singaji's  shrine  offer  unripe  mangoes  and  sugar, 
and  an  annual  fair  is  held  at  it,  when  it  is  said  that  for 
seven  days  no  cows,  flies  or  ants  are  to  be  seen  in  the  place. 
In  the  Betul  district  there  is  a  village  godling  called  Dait, 
represented  by  a  stone  under  a  tree.  He  is  the  spirit  of  any 
Ahlr  who  in  his  lifetime  was  credited  in  the  locality  with 
having  the  powers  of  an  exorcist.  In  Mandla  and  other 
Districts  when  any  buffalo  herdsman  dies  at  a  very  advanced 

^  Gokul  was  the  place  where  Krishna  was  brought  up,  and  the  Gokulastha 
Gosains  are  his  special  devotees. 


age  the  people  make  a  platform  for  him  within  the  village 
and  call  it  Mahashi  Deo  or  the  buffalo  god.  Similarly, 
when  an  old  cattle  herdsman  dies  they  do  the  same,  and  call 
it  Balki  Ueo  or  the  bullock  god.  Here  we  have  a  clear 
instance  of  the  process  of  substituting  the  spirit  of  the 
lierdsman  for  the  cow  or  buffalo  as  an  object  of  worship. 
The  occupation  di  the  Ahir  also  lends  itself  to  religious 
imaginations.  He  stays  in  the  forest  or  waste  grass-land, 
frequently  alone  from  morning  till  night,  watching  his  herds  ; 
and  the  credulous  and  uneducated  minds  of  the  more 
emotional  may  easily  hear  the  voices  of  spirits,  or  in  a 
half-sleeping  condition  during  the  heat  and  stillness  of  the 
long  day  may  think  that  visions  have  appeared  to  them. 
Thus  they  come  to  believe  themselves  selected  for  communi- 
cation with  the  unseen  deities  or  spirits,  and  on  occasions  of 
strong  religious  excitement  work  themselves  into  a  frenzy 
and  are  held  to  be  possessed  by  a  spirit  or  god. 

Among  the  special  deities  of  the  Ahirs  is  Kharak  Deo,  13.  Caste 
who  is  always  located  at  the  khirkha,  or  place  of  assembly  of  '^'"^^' 
the  cattle,  on  going  to  and  returning  from  pasture.  He  appears 
to  be  the  spirit  or  god  of  the  kliirkJia.  He  is  represented  by 
a  platform  with  an  image  of  a  horse  on  it,  and  when  cattle 
fall  ill  the  owners  offer  flour  and  butter  to  him.  These 
are  taken  by  the  Ahirs  in  charge,  and  it  is  thought  that  the 
cattle  will  get  well.  Matar  Deo  is  the  god  of  the  pen  or 
enclosure  for  cattle  made  in  the  jungle.  Three  days  after 
the  Diwali  festival  the  Rawats  sacrifice  one  or  more  goats  to 
him,  cutting  off  their  heads.  They  throw  the  heads  into  the 
air,  and  the  cattle,  smelling  the  blood,  run  together  and 
toss  them  with  their  horns  as  they  do  when  they  scent  a  tiger. 
The  men  then  say  that  the  animals  are  possessed  by  Matar  Deo, 
Guraya  Deo  is  a  deity  who  lives  in  the  cattle-stalls  in  the 
village  and  is  worshipped  once  a  year.  A  man  holds  an  ^^^ 
in  his  hand,  and  walks  round  the  stall  pouring  liquid  over 
the  Q.'g^  all  the  way,  so  as  to  make  a  line  round  it.  The  o.^^ 
is  then  buried  beneath  the  shrine  of  the  ijod,  the  rite  beine 
probably  meant  to  ensure  his  aid  for  the  protection  of  the 
cattle  from  disease  in  their  stalls.  A  favourite  saint  of  the 
Ahirs  is  Haridas  Baba.  He  was  a  Jogi,  and  could  separate  his 
soul  from  his  body  at   pleasure.      On   one  occasion   he  had 


gone  in  spirit  to  Benares,  leaving  his  body  in  the  house  of 
one  of  his  disciples,  who  was  an  Ahlr.  When  he  did  not 
return,  and  the  people  heard  that  a  dead  body  was  lying  there, 
they  came  and  insisted  that  it  should  be  burnt.  When  he 
came  back  and  found  that  his  body  was  burnt,  he  entered 
into  a  man  and  spoke  through  him,  telling  the  people  what 
had  happened.  In  atonement  for  their  unfortunate  mistake 
they  promised  to  worship  him. 

14.  Other  The  Mahakul  Ahirs  of  Jashpur  have  three  deities,  whom 
deities.        they  call  Mahadeo  or  Siva,  Sahadeo,  one  of  the  five  Pandava 

brothers,  and  the  goddess  Lakshmi.  They  say  that  the 
buffalo  is  Mahadeo,  the  cow  Sahadeo,  and  the  rice  Lakshmi. 
This  also  appears  to  be  an  instance  of  the  personification  of 
animals  and  the  corn  into  anthropomorphic  deities. 

15.  The  The   principal   festival  of  the  AhIrs  is  the  Diwali,  falling 
P'^^'^'l        about   the   beginning  of  November,  which   is   also  the  time 

festival.  t>  o 

when  the  autumn  crops  ripen.  All  classes  observe  this 
feast  by  illuminating  their  houses  with  many  small  saucer- 
lamps  and  letting  off  crackers  and  fireworks,  and  they 
generally  gamble  with  money  to  bring  them  good  luck 
during  the  coming  year.  The  AhIrs  make  a  mound  of 
earth,  which  is  called  Govardhan,  that  is  the  mountain  in 
Mathura  which  Krishna  held  upside  down  on  his  finger  for 
seven  days  and  nights,  so  that  all  the  people  might  gather 
under  it  and  be  protected  from  the  devastating  storms  of 
rain  sent  by  Indra.  After  dancing  round  the  mound  they 
drive  their  cattle  over  it  and  make  them  trample  it  to  pieces. 
At  this  time  a  festival  called  Marhai  is  held,  at  which  much 
liquor  is  drunk  and  all  classes  disport  themselves.  In 
Damoh  on  this  day  the  Ahirs  go  to  the  standing-place  for 
village  cattle,  and  after  worshipping  the  god,  frighten  the 
cattle  by  waving  leaves  of  the  basil-plant  at  them,  and  then 
put  on  fantastic  dresses,  decorating  themselves  with  cowries, 
and  go  round  the  village,  singing  and  dancing.  Elsewhere 
at  the  time  of  the  Marhai  they  dance  round  a  pole  with 
peacock  feathers  tied  to  the  top,  and  sometimes  wear 
peacock  feathers  themselves,  as  well  as  aprons  sewn  all  over 
with  cowries.  It  is  said  that  Krishna  and  Balaram  used  to 
wear  peacock  feathers  when  they  danced  in  the  jungles  of 
Mathura,  but   this   rite   has   probably   some   connection   with 

11  77//:"  niU'Al.I  FESTIVAL  33 

the  worship  of  the  peacock.  This  bird  niij^ht  be  venerated 
by  the  Ahirs  as  one  of  the  prominent  denizens  of  the  jungle. 
In  Raipur  they  tie  a  white  cock  to  the  top  of  the  pole  and 
dance  round  it.  In  Mandla,  Khila  Mutha,  the  god  of  the 
threshing-floor,  is  worshipped  at  this  time,  with  offerings 
of  a  fowl  and  a  goat.  They  also  perform  the  rite  oi jagdna 
or  waking  him  up.  They  tie  branches  of  a  small  shrub  to  a 
stick  and  pour  milk  over  the  stone  which  is  his  emblem, 
and  sing,  '  Wake  up,  Khila  Mutha,  this  is  the  night  of 
Amawas '  (the  new  moon).  Then  they  go  to  the  cattle-shed 
and  wake  up  the  cattle,  crying,  '  Poraiya,  god  of  the  door, 
watchman  of  the  window,  open  the  door,  Nand  Gowal  is 
coming.'  Then  they  drive  out  the  cattle  and  chase  them 
with  the  branches  tied  to  their  sticks  as  far  as  their  grazing- 
ground.  Nand  Gowal  was  the  foster-father  of  Krishna,  and 
is  now  said  to  signify  a  man  who  has  a  lakh  (100,000)  of 
cows.  This  custom  of  frightening  the  cattle  and  making 
them  run  is  called  dhor  jagdna  or  bichkdna,  that  is,  to  wake 
up  or  terrify  the  cattle.  Its  meaning  is  obscure,  but  it  is 
said  to  preserve  the  cattle  from  disease  during  the  year. 
In  Raipur  the  women  make  an  image  of  a  parrot  in  clay  at 
the  Diwali  and  place  it  on  a  pole  and  go  round  to  the 
different  houses,  singing  and  dancing  round  the  pole,  and 
receiving  presents  of  rice  and  money.  They  praise  the 
parrot  as  the  bird  who  carries  messages  from  a  lover  to  his 
mistress,  and  as  living  on  the  mountains  and  among  the 
green  verdure,  and  sing  : 

"  Oh,  parrot,  where  shall  we  sow  gondla  grass  and  where 
shall  we  sow  rice  ? 

"  We  will  sow  gondla  in  a  pond  and  rice  in  the  field. 

"  With  what  shall  we  cvX gondla  grass,  and  with  what  shall 
we  cut  rice  ? 

"  We  shall  cut  gondla  with  an  axe  and  rice  with  a  sickle." 

It  is  probable  that  the  parrot  is  revered  as  a  spirit  of 
the  forest,  and  also  perhaps  because  it  is  destructive  to  the 
corn.  The  parrot  is  not,  so  far  as  is  known,  associated 
with  any  god,  but  the  Hindus  do  not  kill  it.  In  Bilaspur 
an  ear  of  rice  is  put  into  the  parrot's  mouth,  and  it  is  said 
there  that  the  object  of  the  rite  is  to  prevent  the  parrots 
from  preying  on  the  corn. 

VOL.  II  D 


On  the  night  of  the  full  moon  of  Jesth  (May)  the  Ahirs 
stay  awake  all  night,  and  if  the  moon  is  covered  with  clouds 
they  think  that  the  rains  will  be  good.  If  a  cow's  horns  are 
not  firmly  fixed  in  the  head  and  seem  to  shake  slightly,  it 
is  called  Maini,  and  such  an  animal  is  considered  to  be 
lucky.  If  a  bullock  sits  down  with  three  legs  under  him 
and  the  fourth  stretched  out  in  front  it  is  a  very  good 
omen,  and  it  is  thought  that  his  master's  cattle  will  increase 
and  multiply.  When  a  buffalo-calf  is  born  they  cover  it  at 
once  with  a  black  cloth  and  remove  it  from  the  mother's 
sight,  as  they  think  that  if  she  saw  the  calf  and  it  then  died 
her  milk  would  dry  up.  The  calf  is  fed  by  hand.  Cow- 
calves,  on  the  other  hand,  are  usually  left  with  the  mother, 
and  many  people  allow  them  to  take  all  the  milk,  as  they 
think  it  a  sin  to  deprive  them  of  it. 

The  Ahirs  will  eat  the  flesh  of  goats  and  chickens,  and 
most  of  them  consume  liquor  freely.  The  Kaonra  Ahirs  of 
Mandla  eat  pork,  and  the  Ravvats  of  Chhattlsgarh  are  said 
not  to  object  to  field-mice  and  rats,  even  when  caught  in 
the  houses.  The  Kaonra  Ahirs  are  also  said  not  to  con- 
sider a  woman  impure  during  the  period  of  menstruation. 
Nevertheless  the  Ahirs  enjoy  a  good  social  status,  owing  to 
their  relations  with  the  sacred  cow.  As  remarked  by  Eha  : 
"  His  family  having  been  connected  for  many  generations 
with  the  sacred  animal  he  enjoys  a  certain  consciousness  of 
moral  respectability,  like  a  man  whose  uncles  are  deans  or 
canons."  ^  All  castes  will  take  water  from  the  hands  of 
an  Ahir,  and  in  Chhattlsgarh  and  the  Uriya  country  the 
Rawats  and  Gahras,  as  the  AhIr  caste  is  known  respectively 
in  these  localities,  are  the  only  caste  from  whom  Brahmans 
and  all  other  Hindus  will  take  water.  On  this  account,  and 
because  of  their  comparative  purity,  they  are  largely 
employed  as  personal  servants.  In  Chhattlsgarh  the 
ordinary  Rawats  will  clean  the  cooking  -  vessels  even  of 
Muhammadans,  but  the  Thethwar  or  pure  Rawats  refuse  this 
menial  work.  In  Mandla,  when  a  man  is  to  be  brought 
back  into  caste  after  a  serious  offence,  such  as  getting 
vermin  in  a  wound,  he  is  made  to  stand  in  the  middle  of  a 
stream,  while  some  elderly  relative  pours   water  over  him. 

'   Behind  the  Bungalow. 

II  ORNAMENTS -occur  AT  ION  35 

lie  then  addresses  tlie  members  of  the  caste /(^wc/^cy/^/ or 
committee,  who  are  standing  on  the  bank,  saying-  to  them, 
'  Will  you  leave  me  in  the  mud  or  will  you  take  me  out  ? ' 
Then  they  tell  him  to  come  out,  and  he  has  to  give  a  feast. 
At  this  a  member  of  the  Meliha  sept  first  eats  food  and 
puts  some  into  the  offender's  mouth,  thus  taking  the  latter's 
sin  upon  himself  The  offender  then  addresses  the  pan- 
chdyat  saying,  '  Rajas  of  the  Panch,  eat.'  Then  the  pan- 
chdyat  and  all  the  caste  take  food  with  him  and  he  is 
readmitted.  In  Nandgaon  State  the  head  of  the  caste 
panchdyat  is  known  as  Thethwar,  the  title  of  the  highest 
subcaste,  and  is  appointed  by  the  Raja,  to  whom  he  makes 
a  present.  In  Jashpur,  among  the  Mahakul  Ahirs,  when  an 
offender  is  put  out  of  caste  he  has  on  readmission  to  make 
an  offering  of  Rs.  1-4  to  Balaji,  the  tutelary  deity  of  the 
State.  These  Mahakuls  desire  to  be  considered  superior  to 
ordinary  Ahirs,  and  their  social  rules  are  hence  very  strict. 
A  man  is  put  out  of  caste  if  a  dog,  fowl  or  pig  touches  his 
water  or  cooking-pots,  or  if  he  touches  a  fowl.  In  the  latter 
case  he  is  obliged  to  make  an  offering  of  a  fowl  to  the  local 
god,  and  eight  days  are  allowed  for  procuring  it.  A  man  is 
also  put  out  of  caste  for  beating  his  father.  In  Mandla, 
Ahirs  commonly  have  the  title  of  Patel  or  headman  of  a 
village,  probably  because  in  former  times,  when  the  country 
consisted  almost  entirely  of  forest  and  grass  land,  they  were 
accustomed  to  hold  large  areas  on  contract  for  grazing. 

In  Chhattlsgarh  the  Rawat  women  are  especially  fond  of  18.  Orna- 
wearing  large  churns  or  leg-ornaments  of  bell-metal.  These  "^^"'^• 
consist  of  a  long  cylinder  which  fits  closely  to  the  leg, 
being  made  in  two  halves  which  lock  into  each  other, 
while  at  each  end  and  in  the  centre  circular  plates  project 
outwards  horizontally.  A  pair  of  these  churns  may  weigh 
8  or  10  lbs.,  and  cost  from  Rs.  3  to  Rs.  9.  It  is  probable  that 
some  important  magical  advantage  was  expected  to  come 
from  the  wearing  of  these  heavy  appendages,  which  must 
greatly  impede  free  progression,  but  its  nature  is  not  known. 

Only  about  thirty  per  cent  of  the  Ahirs  are  still  occupied  19-  Occu- 
in   breeding  cattle   and   dealing  in  milk  and  butter.      About  P^"°"- 
four   per   cent    are   domestic    servants,    and    nearly   all    the 
remainder  cultivators  and  labourers.      In  former  times  the 


Ahirs  had  the  exclusive  right  of  milking  the  cow,  so  that  on 
all  occasions  an  Ahir  must  be  hired  for  this  purpose  even 
by  the  lowest  castes.  Any  one  could,  however,  milk  the 
buffalo,  and  also  make  curds  and  other  preparations  from 
cow's  milk/  This  rule  is  interesting  as  showing  how  the 
caste  system  was  maintained  and  perpetuated  by  the  custom 
of  preserving  to  each  caste  a  monopoly  of  its  traditional 
occupation.  The  rule  probably  applied  also  to  the  bulk  of 
the  cultivating  and  the  menial  and  artisan  castes,  and  now 
that  it  has  been  entirely  abrogated  it  would  appear  that  the 
gradual  decay  and  dissolution  of  the  caste  organisation  must 
follow.  The  village  cattle  are  usually  entrusted  jointly  to 
one  or  more  herdsmen  for  grazing  purposes.  The  grazier  is 
paid  separately  for  each  animal  entrusted  to  his  care, a  common 
rate  being  one  anna  for  a  cow  or  bullock  and  two  annas  for  a 
buffalo  per  month.  When  a  calf  is  born  he  gets  four  annas 
for  a  cow-calf  and  eight  annas  for  a  she-buffalo,  but  except 
in  the  rice  districts  nothing  for  a  male  buffalo-calf,  as  these 
animals  are  considered  useless  outside  the  rice  area.  The 
reason  is  that  buffaloes  do  not  work  steadily  except  in 
swampy  or  wet  ground,  where  they  can  refresh  themselves 
by  frequent  drinking.  In  the  northern  Districts  male 
buffalo-calves  are  often  neglected  and  allowed  to  die,  but 
the  cow-buffaloes  are  extremely  valuable,  because  their  milk 
is  the  principal  source  of  supply  of  ghl  or  boiled  butter. 
When  a  cow  or  buffalo  is  in  milk  the  grazier  often  gets  the 
milk  one  day  out  of  four  or  five.  When  a  calf  is  born  the  teats 
of  the  cow  are  first  milked  about  twenty  times  on  to  the 
ground  in  the  name  of  the  local  god  of  the  Ahlrs.  The 
remainder  of  the  first  day's  milk  is  taken  by  the  grazier,  and 
for  the  next  few  days  it  is  given  to  friends.  The  village 
grazier  is  often  also  expected  to  prepare  the  guest-house 
for  Government  officers  and  others  visiting  the  village, 
fetch  grass  for  their  animals,  and  clean  their  cooking 
vessels.  For  this  he  sometimes  receives  a  small  plot  of 
land  and  a  present  of  a  blanket  annually  from  the  village 
proprietor.  Malguzars  and  large  tenants  have  their  private 
herdsmen.  The  pasturage  afforded  by  the  village  waste 
lands  and  forest  is,  as  a  rule,  only  sufficient   for  the  plough- 

'  Eastern  India,  ii.  \>.  467. 


bullocks  and  more  valuable  milch-animals.  The  remainder 
arc  taken  away  sometimes  for  lon^^  distances  to  the  Govern- 
ment forest  reserves,  and  here  the  herdsmen  make  stockades 
in  the  jungle  and  remain  there  with  their  animals  for  months 
together.  The  cattle  which  remain  in  the  village  are  taken 
by  the  owners  in  the  early  morning  to  the  kJiirkha  or  central 
standing-ground.  Here  the  grazier  takes  them  over  and 
drives  them  out  to  pasture.  He  brings  them  back  at  ten  or 
eleven,  and  perhaps  lets  them  stand  in  some  field  which 
the  owner  wants  manured.  Then  he  separates  the  cows 
and  milch-buffaloes  and  takes  them  to  their  masters'  houses, 
where  he  milks  them  all.  In  the  afternoon  all  the  cattle 
are  again  collected  and  driven  out  to  pasture.  The  cultivators 
are  very  much  in  the  grazier's  hands,  as  they  cannot  super- 
vise him,  and  if  dishonest  he  may  sell  off  a  cow  or  calf  to 
a  friend  in  a  distant  village  and  tell  the  owner  that  it  has 
been  carried  off  by  a  tiger  or  panther.  Unless  the  owner 
succeeds  by  a  protracted  search  or  by  accident  in  finding  the 
animal  he  cannot  disprove  the  herdsman's  statement,  and  the 
only  remedy  is  to  dispense  with  the  latter's  services  if  such 
losses  become  unduly  frequent.  On  this  account,  accord- 
ing to  the  proverbs,  the  Ahir  is  held  to  be  treacherous  and 
false  to  his  engagements.  They  are  also  regarded  as  stupid 
because  they  seldom  get  any  education,  retain  their  rustic 
and  half-aboriginal  dialect,  and  on  account  of  their  solitary 
life  are  dull  and  slow-witted  in  company.  '  The  barber's 
son  learns  to  shave  on  the  Ahir's  head.'  '  The  cow  is  in 
league  with  the  milkman  and  lets  him  milk  water  into  the 
pail.'  The  Ahirs  are  also  hot-tempered,  and  their  propensity 
for  drinking  often  results  in  affrays,  when  they  break  each 
other's  head  with  their  cattle-staffs.  '  A  Gaoli's  quarrel  : 
drunk  at  night  and  friends  in  the  morning.' 

Hindus  nearly  always  boil  their  milk  before  using  it,  as  20.  Prepar- 
the  taste  of  milk  fresh  from  the  cow  is  considered  unpalat-  ^l°j!^^  °*^ 
able.  After  boiling,  the  milk  is  put  in  a  pot  and  a  little  old 
curds  added,  when  the  whole  becomes  dahi  or  sour  curds. 
This  is  a  favourite  food,  and  appears  to  be  exactly  the  same 
substance  as  the  Bulgarian  sour  milk  which  is  now  con- 
sidered to  have  much  medicinal  value.  Butter  is  also  made 
by   churning   these    curds   or   dahi.      Butter    is    never   used 


without  being  boiled  first,  when  it  beconnes  converted  into  a 
sort  of  oil  ;  this  has  the  advantage  of  keeping  much  better 
than  fresh  butter,  and  may  remain  fit  for  use  for  as  long  as 
a  year.  This  boiled  butter  is  known  as  ght,  and  is  the 
staple  product  of  the  dairy  industry,  the  bulk  of  the  surplus 
supply  of  milk  being  devoted  to  its  manufacture.  It  is 
freely  used  by  all  classes  who  can  afford  it,  and  serves  very 
well  for  cooking  purposes.  There  is  a  comparatively  small 
market  for  fresh  milk  among  the  Hindus,  and  as  a  rule 
only  those  drink  milk  who  obtain  it  from  their  own  animals. 
The  acid  residue  after  butter  has  been  made  from  dahi 
(curds)  or  milk  is  known  as  viatJia  or  butter-milk,  and  is  the 
only  kind  of  milk  drunk  by  the  poorer  classes.  Milk  boiled 
so  long  as  to  become  solidified  is  known  as  kliir,  and  is  used 
by  confectioners  for  making  sweets.  When  the  milk  is 
boiled  and  some  sour  milk  added  to  it,  so  that  it  coagulates 
while  hot,  the  preparation  is  called  ckhana.  The  whey 
is  expressed  from  this  by  squeezing  it  in  a  cloth,  and  a  kind 
of  cheese  is  obtained.^  The  liquid  which  oozes  out  at  the 
root  of  a  cow's  horns  after  death  is  known  as  gaolocJian  and 
sells  for  a  high  price,  as  it  is  considered  a  valuable  medicine 
for  children's  cough  and  lung  diseases. 

Andh." — A  low  cultivating  caste  of  Berar,  who  numbered 
52,000  persons  in  191  i,  and  belong  to  the  Yeotmal,  Akola 
and  Buldana  Districts.  The  Andhs  appear  to  be  a  non- 
Aryan  tribe  of  the  Andhra  or  Tamil  country,  from  which 
they  derive  their  name.  The  territories  of  the  Andhra 
dynasty  extended  across  southern  India  from  sea  to  sea  in 
the  early  part  of  the  Christian  era.  This  designation  may, 
however,  have  been  given  to  them  after  migration,  emigrants 
being  not  infrequently  called  in  their  new  country  by  the 
name  of  the  place  from  which  they  came,  as  Berari,  Purdesi, 
Audhia  (from  Oudh),  and  so  on.  At  present  there  seems 
to  be  no  caste  called  Andh  in  Madras.  Mr.  Kitts  ^  notes 
that  they  still  come  from  Hyderabad  across  the  Penganga 

'   Buchanan,  Eastern  India,   ii.  pp.       paper  by  Mr.  W.  S.    Slaney,  E.A.C., 
924,  943.  Akola. 

^  This  article  is  mainly  based   on  a  ^  Berar  Census  Report  (18S1). 

I  AND  II  39 

The  caste  arc  divided  into  two  groups,  Vartati  or  pure 
and  Khaltfiti  or  illci,M'timatc,  which  take  food  together,  but 
do  not  intermarry.  They  have  a  large  number  of  exoga- 
mous  septs,  most  of  which  appear  to  have  Marathi  names, 
either  taken  from  villages  or  of  a  titular  character.  A  few 
are  called  after  animals  or  plants,  as  Majiria  the  cat,  Ringni 
a  kind  of  tree,  Dumare  from  Dumar,  an  ant-hill,  Dukare  from 
Dukar,  a  pig,  and  Titawe  from  Titawa,  a  bird.  Baghmare 
means  tiger-killer  or  one  killed  by  a  tiger  ;  members  of  this 
sept  revere  the  tiger.  Two  septs,  Bhoyar  and  Wanjari,  are 
named  after  other  castes. 

Marriage  between  members  of  the  same  sept  is  pro- 
hibited, and  also  between  first  cousins,  except  that  a  sister's 
son  may  marry  a  brother's  daughter.  Until  recently  marriage 
has  been  adult,  but  girls  are  now  wedded  as  children,  and 
betrothals  are  sometimes  arranged  before  they  are  born. 
The  ceremony  resembles  that  of  the  Kunbis.  Betrothals  are 
arranged  between  October  and  December,  and  the  weddings 
take  place  three  or  four  months  later,  from  January  to  April. 
If  the  bride  is  mature  she  goes  at  once  to  her  husband's 
house.  Polygamy  is  allowed  ;  and  as  only  a  well-to-do  man 
can  afford  to  obtain  more  than  one  wife,  those  who  have 
several  are  held  to  be  wealthy,  and  treated  with  respect. 
Divorce  and  the  remarriage  of  widows  are  permitted,  but 
the  widow  may  not  marry  her  husband's  brother  nor  any 
member  of  his  clan.  If  an  unmarried  girl  becomes  pregnant 
by  a  man  of  her  own  or  a  superior  caste  she  is  fined,  and 
can  then  be  married  as  a  widow.  Her  feet  are  not  washed 
nor  besmeared  with  red  powder  at  the  wedding  ceremony 
like  those  of  other  girls.  In  some  localities  Andh  women 
detected  in  a  criminal  intimacy  even  with  men  of  such  im- 
pure castes  as  the  Mahars  and  Mangs  have  been  readmitted 
into  the  community.  A  substantial  fine  is  imposed  on  a 
woman  detected  in  adultery  according  to  her  means  and 
spent  on  a  feast  to  the  caste.  All  the  members  thus  have  a 
personal  interest  in  the  detection  and  punishment  of  such 
offences.  The  dead  are  usually  buried,  and  water  and  sugar 
are  placed  in  a  d}'ing  man's  mouth  instead  of  the  sacred 
objects  used  by  Hindus  ;  nor  are  the  dying  urged  to  call 
on  Rama.      The  dead  are  buried  with  the  head  to  the  south, 


in  opposition  to  the  Hindu  custom.  The  Andhs  will  eat  the 
flesh  of  fowls  and  pigs,  and  even  cats,  rats  and  snakes  in 
some  localities,  though  the  more  civilised  have  abjured  these 
latter.  They  are  very  fond  of  pork,  and  drink  liquor,  and 
will  take  food  from  Kunbis,  Malis  and  Kolis,  but  not  from 
Gonds.  They  have  a  caste  panchdyat  or  committee,  with 
a  headman  called  Mohtaria,  and  two  officers  known  as 
Phopatia  and  Dukria.  When  a  caste  offence  is  committed 
the  Dukria  goes  to  call  the  offender,  and  is  given  the 
earthen  pots  used  at  the  penalty-feast,  while  the  Phopatia 
receives  a  new  piece  of  cloth.  The  Mohtaria  or  headman 
goes  from  village  to  village  to  decide  cases,  and  gets  a  share 
of  the  fine.  The  caste  are  shikaris  or  hunters,  and  culti- 
vators. •  They  catch  antelope,  hares,  pig  and  nilgai  in  their 
nets,  and  kill  them  with  sticks  and  stones,  and  they  dam  up 
streams  and  net  fish.  Birds  are  not  caught.  Generally,  the 
customs  of  the  Andhs  clearly  point  to  an  aboriginal  origin, 
but  they  are  rapidly  being  Hinduised,  and  in  some  tracts  can 
scarcely  be  distinguished  from  Kunbis. 

They  have  Marathi  names  ;  and  though  only  one  name 
is  given  at  birth,  Mr.  Slaney  notes  that  this  is  frequently 
changed  for  some  pet  name,  and  as  often  as  not  a  man  goes 
regularly  by  some  name  other  than  his  real  one, 

Arakh. — A  small  caste  of  cultivators  and  labourers 
found  principally  in  the  Chanda  District  and  Berar  and 
scattered  over  other  localities.  The  Arakhs  are  considered 
to  be  an  offshoot  of  the  Pasi  or  Bahelia  caste  of  hunters 
and  fowlers.  Mr.  Crooke  ^  writes  of  them  :  "  All  their  tradi- 
tions connect  them  with  the  Pasis  and  Parasurama,  the 
sixth  Avatara  of  Vishnu.  One  story  runs  that  Parasurama 
was  bathing  in  the  sea,  when  a  leech  bit  his  foot  and  caused 
it  to  bleed.  He  divided  the  blood  into  two  parts  ;  out  of 
one  part  he  made  the  first  Pasi  and  out  of  the  second  the 
first  Arakh.  Another  story  is  that  the  Pasis  were  made 
out  of  the  sweat  {paslna)  of  Parasurama.  While  Para- 
surama was  away  the  Pasi  shot  some  animals  with  his  bow, 
and  the  deity  was  so  enraged  that  he  cursed  the  Pasi,  and 
swore  that  his  descendants  should  keep  pigs.     This  accounts 

^    Tribes  and  Castes,  art.  Arakh. 

II  ARAKH  41 

for  the  degradation  of  the  Pfisis.  Subsequently  Parasurama 
sent  for  some  Pfisis  to  help  him  in  one  of  his  wars  ;  but 
they  ran  away  and  hid  in  an  arhar  '  field  and  were  hence 
called  Arakhs."  This  connection  with  the  Pasis  is  also 
recognised  in  the  case  of  the  Arakhs  of  Bcriir,  of  whom 
Mr.  Kitts  writes  : "  "  The  Arakhs  found  in  Morsi  are  a 
race  akin  to  the  Bahelias.  Their  regular  occupation  is 
bird-catching  and  shikar  (hunting).  They  do  not  follow 
Hindu  customs  in  their  marriages,  but  although  they  keep 
pigs,  eat  flesh  and  drink  spirits,  they  will  not  touch  a 
Chamar.  They  appear  to  be  a  branch  of  the  Pasi  tribe, 
and  are  described  as  a  semi-Hinduised  class  of  aborigines." 
In  the  Chanda  District,  however,  the  Arakhs  are  closely 
connected  with  the  Gond  tribe,  as  is  evident  from  their 
system  of  exogamy.  Thus  they  say  that  they  are  divided 
into  the  Matia,  Tekam,  Tesli,  Godam,  Madai,  Sayam  and 
Chorliu  septs,  worshipping  respectively  three,  four,  five,  six, 
seven,  eight  and  twelve  gods ;  and  persons  who  worship 
the  same  number  of  gods  cannot  marry  with  one  another. 
This  system  of  divisions  according  to  the  different  number 
of  gods  worshipped  is  found  in  the  Central  Provinces  only 
among  the  Gonds  and  one  or  two  other  tribes  like  the 
Baigas,  who  have  adopted  it  from  them,  and  as  some  of  the 
names  given  above  are  also  Gondi  words,  no  doubt  need  be 
entertained  that  the  Arakhs  of  Chanda  are  largely  of  Gond 
descent.  They  are  probably,  in  fact,  the  offspring  of 
irregular  connections  between  the  Gonds  and  Pasis,  who, 
being  both  frequenters  of  the  forests,  would  naturally 
come  much  into  contact  with  each  other.  And  being 
disowned  by  the  true  Pasis  on  account  of  their  defective 
pedigree,  they  have  apparently  set  up  as  a  separate  caste 
and  adopted  the  name  of  Arakh  to  hide  the  deficiencies  of 
their  ancestry. 

The  social  customs  of  the  Arakhs  resemble  those  of 
other  low  Hindu  castes,  and  need  not  be  given  in  detail. 
Their  weddings  are  held  near  a  temple  of  Maroti,  or  if  there 
be  none  such,  then  at  the  place  where  the  Holi  fire  was 
lit  in  the  preceding  year.  A  bride-price  varying  from 
Rs.    25    to   Rs.   40   is   usually    paid.       In    the   case  of  the 

'    Cajanus  indiciis.  '^  BerCir  Census  Report  (1881),  p.   157. 

42  A  TARI  part 

marriage  of  a  widow,  the  second  husband  goes  to  the  house 
of  the  woman,  where  the  couple  are  bathed  and  seated  on 
two  wooden  boards,  a  branch  of  a  cotton-plant  being  placed 
near  them.  The  bridegroom  then  ties  five  strings  of  black 
glass  beads  round  the  woman's  neck.  The  dead  are  mourned 
for  one  day  only,  and  a  funeral  feast  is  given  to  the  caste- 
fellows.  The  Arakhs  are  a  very  low  caste,  but  their  touch 
does  not  convey  impurity. 

I.  General 

2.  Mar- 

Atari/  Gandhi,  Bukekari.  —  A  small  Muhammadan 
caste  of  retailers  of  scent,  incense,  tooth-powder  and  kunku 
or  pink  powder.  Atari  is  derived  from  atar  or  itra,  attar 
of  roses,  Gandhi  comes  from  gandJi,  a  Sanskrit  word  for 
scent.  Bukekari  is  a  Marathi  word  meaning  a  seller  of 
powder.  The  Ataris  number  about  two  hundred  persons  in 
Nagpur,  Wardha  and  Berar.  Both  Hindus  and  Muham- 
madans  follow  the  profession,  but  the  Hindu  Ataris  are  not 
a  separate  caste,  and  belong  to  the  Teli,  Gurao  and  Beldar 
castes.  The  Muhammadan  Ataris,  to  whom  this  article 
refers,  may  marry  with  other  Muhammadans,  with  the 
exception  of  low-class  tradesmen  like  the  Pinjaras,  Kasais 
and  Kunjras.  One  instance  of  an  Atari  marrying  a  Rangrez 
is  known,  but  usually  they  decline  to  do  so.  But  since 
they  are  not  considered  to  be  the  equals  of  ordinary  Muham- 
madans, they  constitute  more  or  less  a  distinct  social  group. 
They  are  of  the  same  position  as  Muhammadan  tin- workers, 
bangle-makers  and  pedlars,  and  sometimes  intermarry  with 
them.  They  admit  Hindu  converts  into  the  community, 
but  the  women  refuse  to  eat  with  them,  and  the  better- 
class  families  will  not  intermarry  with  converts.  A  new 
convert  must  be  circumcised,  but  if  he  is  of  advanced  age, 
or  if  his  foreskin  is  wanting,  as  sometimes  happens,  they 
take  a  rolled-up  betel-leaf  and  cut  it  in  two  in  substitution 
for  the  rite. 

It  is  essential  that  a  girl  should  be  married  before 
adolescence,  as  it  is  said  that  when  the  signs  of  puberty 
appear  in  her  before  wedlock  her  parents  commit  a  crime 
equivalent  to  the  shedding  of  human   blood.       The   father 

1  Based    on    papers    by    Mr.    Bijai       Hinganghat,  and  Munslii  Kanhya  Lai 
Bahadur      Royzada,      Naib  -  Tahslldar       of  the  Gazetteer  office. 


of  the  boy  looks  for  a  bride,  and  after  droppin;^  hints  to  the 
girl's  family  to  see  if  his  proposal  is  acceptable,  he  sends 
some  female  relatives  or  friends  to  discuss  the  marriage. 
Before  the  wedding  the  boy  is  presented  with  a  clihiip  or 
ring  of  gold  or  silver  with  a  small  cup-like  attachment. 
A  mehar  or  dowry  must  be  given  to  the  bride,  the  amount 
of  which  is  not  below  Rs.  50  or  above  Rs.  250.  The 
bride's  parents  give  her  cooking  vessels,  bedding  and  a 
bedstead.  After  the  wedding,  the  couple  are  seated  on  a 
cot  while  the  women  sing  songs,  and  they  see  each  other's 
face  reflected  in  a  minor.  The  procession  returns  after 
a  stay  of  four  days,  and  is  received  by  the  women  of  the 
bridegroom's  family  with  some  humorous  ceremonies  bearing 
on  the  nature  of  marriage.  A  feast  called  Tamm  Walima 
follows,  and  the  couple  are  shut  up  together  in  an  inner 
room,  even  though  they  may  be  under  age.  The  marriage 
includes  some  Hindu  customs,  such  as  the  erection  of  the 
pandal  or  shed,  rubbing  the  couple  with  turmeric  and  oil, 
and  the  tying  on  of  kankans  or  wrist-bands.  A  girl  going 
wrong  before  marriage  may  be  wedded  with  full  rites  so 
long  as  she  has  not  conceived,  but  after  conception  until 
her  child  is  born  she  cannot  go  through  the  ceremony  at 
all.  After  the  birth  of  the  child  she  may  be  married  simply 
with  the  rite  for  widows.  She  retains  the  child,  but  it  has 
no  claim  to  succeed  to  her  husband's  property.  A  widow 
may  marry  again  after  an  interval  of  forty  days  from  her 
first  husband's  death,  and  she  may  wed  her  younger  brother- 
in-law.  Divorce  is  permitted  at  the  instance  of  either  party, 
and  for  mere  disagreement.  A  man  usually  divorces  his 
wife  by  vowing  in  the  presence  of  two  witnesses  that  he 
will  in  future  consider  intercourse  with  her  as  incestuous 
in  the  same  degree  as  with  his  mother.  A  divorced  woman 
has  a  claim  to  her  nieJiar  or  dowry  if  not  already  paid,  but 
forfeits  it  if  she  marries  again.  A  man  can  marry  the 
daughter  of  his  paternal  uncle.  The  services  of  a  Kazi  at 
weddings  are  paid  for  with  a  fee  of  Rs.  1-4,  and  well-to-do 
persons  also  give  him  a  pair  of  turbans. 

The  Ataris  are  Muhammadans  of  the  Sunni  sect.      They  3-  Religion. 
revere  the  Muhammadan  saints,  and  on  the  night  of  Shabrat 
they  let  off  fireworks  in  honour  of  their  ancestors  and   make 

44  A  TART  part 

offerings  of  hnhva  ^  to  them  and  place  lamps  and  scent  on 
their  tombs.  They  swear  by  the  pig  and  abstain  from  eating 
its  flesh.  The  dog  is  considered  an  unclean  animal  and  its 
tail,  ears  and  tongue  are  especially  defiling.  If  the  hair  of 
a  dog  falls  on  the  ground  they  cannot  pray  in  that  place 
because  the  souls  of  the  prophets  cannot  come  there.  To 
see  a  dog  flapping  its  ears  is  a  bad  omen,  and  a  person  start- 
ing on  a  journey  should  postpone  his  departure.  They 
esteem  the  spider,  because  they  say  it  spread  its  web  over  the 
mouth  of  the  cave  where  Hasan  and  Husain  lay  concealed 
from  their  enemies  and  thus  prevented  it  from  being  searched. 
Some  of  them  have  Pirs  or  spiritual  preceptors,  these  being 
Muhammadan  beggars,  not  necessarily  celibate.  The  cere- 
mony of  adhesion  is  that  a  man  should  drink  sherbet  from  the 
cup  from  which  his  preceptor  has  drunk.  They  do  not  observe 
impurity  after  a  death  nor  bathe  on  returning  from  a  funeral. 
Liquor  is  of  course  prohibited  to  the  Ataris  as  to  other 
Muhammadans,  but  some  of  them  drink  it  nevertheless. 
Some  of  them  eat  beef  and  others  abstain.  The  blood  of 
animals  killed  must  flow  before  death  according  to  the  rite 
of  haldl,  but  they  say  that  fish  are  an  exception,  because 
when  Abraham  was  offering  up  his  son  Ishmael  and  God  sub- 
stituted a  goat,  the  goat  bleated  before  it  was  killed,  and 
this  offended  Abraham,  who  threw  his  sacrificial  knife  into 
the  sea :  the  knife  struck  and  killed  a  fish,  and  on  this 
account  all  fish  are  considered  to  be  haldl  or  lawful  food 
without  any  further  rite.  The  Ataris  observe  the  Hindu 
law  of  inheritance,  and  some  of  them  worship  Hindu 
deities,  as  Mata  the  goddess  of  smallpox.  As  a  rule  their 
women  are  not  secluded.  The  Ataris  make  viissi  or  tooth- 
powder  from  myrobalans,  cloves  and  cardamoms,  and  other 
constituents.  This  has  the  effect  of  blackening  the  teeth. 
They  also  sell  the  kunku  or  red  powder  which  women  rub 
on  their  foreheads,  its  constituents  being  turmeric,  borax  and 
the  juice  of  limes.  They  sell  scent  and  sometimes  deal  in 
tobacco.  The  scents  most  in  demand  are  giildb-pdni  or 
rose-water  and  pJmlel  or  essence  of  tilli  or  sesamum.  Scents 
are  usually  sold  by  the  tola  of  i  8  annas  silver  weight,^  and 

'  A  preparation  of  raisins  and  other  -  The  ordinary  tola  is  a  rupee  weight 

fruits  and  rice.  or  two-fifths  of  an  ounce. 

ir  A  UP  up:  LI  A  45 

a  tola  of  attar  may  vary  in  price  from  8  annas  to  Rs.  8o. 
Other  scents  are  made  from  klias-kkas  grass,  the  mango, 
henna  and  music,  the  bela  flower,^  the  champak  "  and  cucumber. 
Scent  is  manufactured  by  distillation  from  the  flowers  boiled 
in  water,  and  the  drops  of  congealed  vapour  fall  into  sandal- 
wood oil,  which  they  say  is  the  basis  of  all  scents.  Fragrant 
oils  are  also  sold  for  rubbing  on  the  hair,  made  from  orange 
flowers,  jasmine,  cotton-seed  and  the  flowers  of  the  aonla  tree.^ 
Scent  is  sold  in  tiny  circular  glass  bottles,  and  the  oils  in 
little  bottles  made  from  thin  leather.  The  Ataris  also  retail 
the  little  black  sticks  of  incense  which  are  set  up  and  burnt 
at  the  time  of  taking  food  and  in  temples,  so  that  the  smell 
and  smoke  may  keep  off  evil  spirits.  When  professional 
exorcists  are  called  upon  to  clear  any  building,  such  as  a 
hospital,  supposed  to  be  haunted  by  spirits  or  the  ghosts  of 
the  dead,  they  commence  operations  by  placing  these  sticks 
of  incense  at  the  entrance  and  setting  them  alight  as  in  a 

Audhelia  (Audhalia). — A  small  hybrid  caste  found  i.  Origin. 
almost  exclusively  in  the  Bilaspur  District,  where  they 
number  about  looo  persons.  The  name  is  derived  from 
the  word  Udharia,  meaning  a  person  with  clandestine  sexual 
intimacies.  The  Audhelias  are  a  mixed  caste  and  trace 
their  origin  from  a  Daharia  Rajput  ancestor,  by  one  BhQri 
Bandi,  a  female  slave  of  unknown  caste.  This  couple  is 
supposed  to  have  resided  in  Ratanpur,  the  old  capital  of 
Chhattisgarh,  and  the  female  ancestors  of  the  Audhelias  are 
said  to  have  been  prostitutes  until  they  developed  into  a 
caste  and  began  to  marry  among  themselves.  Their  proper 
avocation  at  present  is  the  rearing  of  pigs,  while  some  of 
them  are  also  tenants  and  farm-labourers.  Owing  to  the 
base  descent  and  impure  occupation  of  the  caste  they  are 
held  in  very  low  esteem,  and  their  touch  is  considered  to 
convey  pollution. 

The  caste  have  at  present  no  endogamous  divisions  and  2.  Mar- 
still  admit  members  of  other  castes  with  the  exception  of  "^^^' 
the  very  lowest.      But  social   gradations  exist  to  a  certain 

'  Jasrnimiin  zainbac.  "  Michelia  chanipaca. 

'^  Phyllanthus  cinblica. 

46  A  UDHELIA  part 

extent  among  the  members  according  to  the  position  of  their 
male  ancestors,  a  Daharia  Audhelia,  for  instance,  being 
rekictant  to  eat  or  intermarry  with  a  Panka  Audhelia. 
Under  these  circumstances  it  has  become  a  rule  among  the 
Audhelias  not  to  eat  with  their  caste-fellows  excepting  their 
own  relations.  On  the  occasion  of  a  caste  feast,  therefore, 
each  guest  prepares  his  own  food,  taking  only  uncooked 
grain  from  his  host.  At  present  seven  gotras  or  exogamous 
divisions  appear  to  have  been  formed  in  the  caste  with 
the  names  of  Pachbhaiya,  Chhahri,  Kalkhor,  Bachhawat, 
Dhanawat,  Bhainsa  and  Limuan.  The  following  story  exists 
as  to  the  origin  of  these  gotras  :  There  were  formerly  three 
brothers,  Sahasman,  Budha  and  Mangal,  who  were  Sansis 
or  robbers.  One  evening  the  three  brothers  halted  in  a 
forest  and  went  to  look  for  food.  One  brought  back  a 
buffalo-horn,  another  a  peacock's  feather  and  the  youngest, 
Mangal,  brought  plums.  The  other  brothers  asked  Mangal 
to  let  them  share  his  plums,  to  which  he  agreed  on  condition 
that  one  of  the  brothers  should  give  his  daughter  to  him  in 
marriage.  As  Mangal  and  his  brothers  were  of  one  gotra 
or  section,  and  the  marriage  would  thus  involve  splitting  up 
the  gotra,  the  brothers  were  doubtful  whether  it  could  be 
performed.  They  sought  about  for  some  sign  to  determine 
this  difficult  question,  and  decided  that  if  Mangal  succeeded 
in  breaking  in  pieces  an  iron  image  of  a  cat  simply  by  blows 
of  his  naked  fist,  it  would  be  a  sufficient  indication  that  they 
might  split  up  "CaoAx  gotra.  Mangal  was  therefore  put  to  the 
ordeal  and  succeeded  in  breaking  the  image,  so  the  three 
brothers  split  up  their  gotra,  the  eldest  assuming  the  gotra 
name  of  Bhainsa  because  he  had  found  a  buffalo-horn,  the 
second  that  of  Kalkhor,  which  is  stated  to  mean  peacock,  and 
the  third  that  of  Chhahri,  which  at  any  rate  does  not  mean  a 
plum.  The  word  Chhahri  means  either  '  shadow,'  or  '  one 
who  washes  the  clothes  of  a  woman  in  confinement.'  If  we 
assume  it  to  have  the  latter  meaning,  it  may  be  due  to  the 
fact  that  Mangal  had  to  wash  the  clothes  of  his  own  wife, 
not  being  able  to  induce  a  professional  washerman  to  do  so 
on  account  of  the  incestuous  nature  of  the  connection. 
As  the  eldest  brother  gave  his  daughter  in  an  incestuous 
marriage    he    was  also    degraded,  and   became  the  ancestor 


of  the  Kanjars  or  prostitutes,  who,  it  is  said,  to  the  present 
day  do  not  solicit  Audhelias  in  consideration  of  the  con- 
sanguinity existinc^  between  tlicm.  The  story  itself  suf- 
ficiently indicates  the  low  and  mixed  descent  of  the 
Audhelias,  and  its  real  meaning  may  possibly  be  that 
when  they  first  began  to  form  a  separate  caste  they  per- 
mitted incestuous  marriages  on  account  of  the  paucity  of 
their  members.  A  curious  point  about  the  story  is  that  the 
incestuous  nature  of  the  connection  is  not  taken  to  be  the 
most  pressing  objection  to  the  marriage  of  Mangal  with  his 
own  niece,  but  the  violation  of  the  caste  rule  prohibiting 
marriage  within  the  same  gotra.  Bachhawat  and  Dhanawat 
are  the  names  of  sections  of  the  Banjara  caste,  and  the 
persons  of  these  gotras  among  the  Audhelias  are  probably  the 
descendants  of  illicit  connections  among  Banjaras.  The  word 
Pachbhaiya  means  '  five  brothers,'  and  this  name  possibly 
commemorates  a  polyandrous  connection  of  some  Audhelia 
woman.  Limuan  means  a  tortoise,  which  is  a  section  of 
many  castes.  Several  of  the  section-names  are  thus  totemistic, 
and,  as  in  other  castes,  some  reverence  is  paid  to  the  animal 
from  whom  the  name  is  derived.  At  present  the  Audhelias 
forbid  marriage  within  the  same  gotra  and  also  the  union  of 
first  cousins.  Girls  are  married  between  five  and  seven  years 
of  age  as  their  numbers  are  scarce,  and  they  are  engaged  as 
early  as  possible.  Unless  weddings  are  arranged  by  ex- 
changing girls  between  two  families,  a  high  bride-price,  often 
amounting  to  as  much  as  Rs.  60,  is  paid.  No  stigma  is  in- 
curred, however,  if  a  girl  should  remain  unmarried  till  she 
arrives  at  adolescence,  but,  on  the  contrary,  a  higher  price 
is  then  obtained  for  her.  Sexual  licence  either  before  or 
after  marriage  is  considered  a  venial  offence,  but  a  woman 
detected  in  a  liaison  with  a  man  of  one  of  the  lowest  castes  is 
turned  out  of  caste.  Widow  marriage  and  divorce  are  freely 

The  Audhelias  venerate  Dulha  Deo  and  Devi,  to  whom  3.  Religion, 
they  usually  offer  pigs.      Their  principal  festival  is  the  Holi,  ^lath^" 
at  which  their  women  were  formerly  engaged  to  perform  as 
professional   dancers.       They   usually  burn    their   dead    and 
remove  the  ashes  on  the  third  day,  throwing  them  into  the 
nearest    stream.      A    few   of   the    bones    are   picked   up   and 

48  AUDHELIA  part  ii 

buried  under  a  pipal  tree,  and  a  pitcher  with  a  hole  in  the 
bottom  is  hung  on  the  tree  so  that  water  may  trickle  down 
on  to  them.  On  the  tenth  day  the  caste-people  assemble 
and  are  shaved  and  bathe  and  rub  their  bodies  with  oil 
under  the  tree.  Unmarried  men  and  persons  dying  of 
cholera  are  buried,  the  head  being  placed  to  the  north. 
They  consider  that  if  they  place  the  corpse  in  the  reverse 
position  it  would  be  an  insult  to  the  Ganges  equivalent  to 
kicking  the  holy  river,  as  the  feet  of  the  body  would  then 
be  turned  towards  it. 



1.  Introductory  notice.  9,   Religion.       Offering;s    to    an- 

2.  The  Badhak  dacoits.  cestors. 

3.  Instances  of  dacoities.  10.    The     woiuided     haunted     by 

4.  Further    instances    of  dacoi-  spirits. 

ties.  II.   Pious  funeral  observances. 

5 .  Disguise  of   religious    iiiendi-       1 2 .    Taking  the  omens. 

cants.  13.    Suppressio7i  of  dacoity. 

6.  Countenance    and    support  of      1 4.    The  Badhaks  or  Baoris  at  the 

landowners.  present  time. 

7.  Pride  in  their  profession.  15.  Lisard-hunting. 

8.  Caste  rules  a?id  admission  of      16.   Social  observances. 

outsiders.  17.    Criminal  practices. 

Badhak,  Bagri,  Baoria. — A  famous  tribe  of  dacoits  i.  intro- 
who  flourished  up  to  about  1850,  and  extended  their  depreda-  ^^°l''^ 
tions  over  the  whole  of  Northern  and  Central  India.  The 
Bagris  and  Baorias  or  Bawarias  still  exist  and  are  well 
known  to  the  police  as  inveterate  criminals  ;  but  their 
operations  are  now  confined  to  ordinary  burglary,  theft  and 
cheating,  and  their  more  interesting  profession  of  armed 
gang-robbery  on  a  large  scale  is  a  thing  of  the  past.  The 
first  part  of  this  article  is  entirely  compiled  from  the  Report 
on  their  suppression  drawn  up  by  Colonel  Sleeman/  who 
may  be  regarded  as  the  virtual  founder  of  the  Thuggee  and 
Dacoity  Department,  Some  mention  of  the  existing  Bagri 
and  Baoria  tribes  is  added  at  the  end. 

The  origin  of  the  Badhaks  is  obscure,  but  they  seem  to  2.  The 
have   belonged   to  Gujarat,  as   their  peculiar  dialect,  still   in  jj^coit^^ 
use,  is  a  form  of  Gujarati.      The  most  striking  feature  in  it 
is  the  regular  substitution  of  kh  for  s.      They  claimed  to  be 

'   Report  on   the   Badhak  or   Bagri       the    Government  of    India    for    tlieir 
Dacoits  and  the  Measjtres  adopted  by       Suppression,  printed  in  1849. 
VOL.  II  49  E 

50  BADHAK  part 

Rajputs  and  were  divided  into  clans  with  the  well-known 
Rajput  names  of  Solanki,  Panwar,  Dhundhel,  Chauhan, 
Rathor,  Gahlot,  Bhatti  and  Charan.  Their  ancestors  were 
supposed  to  have  fled  from  Chitor  on  one  of  the  historical 
occasions  on  which  it  was  assaulted  and  sacked.  But  as 
they  spoke  Gujarati  it  seems  more  probable  that  they  be- 
longed to  Gujarat,  a  fertile  breeding-place  of  criminals,  and 
they  may  have  been  descended  from  the  alliances  of  Rajputs 
with  the  primitive  tribes  of  this  locality,  the  Bhils  and  Kolis. 
The  existing  Bagris  are  of  short  stature,  one  writer  stating 
that  none  of  them  exceed  five  feet  two  inches  in  height  ;  and 
this  seems  to  indicate  that  they  have  little  Rajput  blood. 
It  may  be  surmised  that  the  Badhaks  rose  into  importance 
and  found  scope  for  their  predatory  instincts  during  the 
period  of  general  disorder  and  absence  of  governing  authority 
through  which  northern  India  passed  after  the  decline  of 
the  Mughal  Empire.  And  they  lived  and  robbed  with  the 
connivance  or  open  support  of  the  petty  chiefs  and  land- 
holders, to  whom  they  gave  a  liberal  share  of  their  booty. 
The  principal  bands  were  located  in  the  Oudh  forests,  but 
they  belonged  to  the  whole  of  northern  India  including  the 
Central  Provinces  ;  and  as  Colonel  Sleeman's  Report,  though 
of  much  interest,  is  now  practically  unknown,  I  have  thought 
it  not  out  of  place  to  compile  an  article  by  means  of  short 
extracts  from  his  account  of  the  tribe. 

In  1822  the  operations  of  the  Badhaks  were  being 
conducted  on  such  a  scale  that  an  officer  wrote :  "  No 
District  between  the  Brahmaputra,  the  Nerbudda,  the  Satlej 
and  the  Himalayas  is  free  from  them  ;  and  within  this  vast 
field  hardly  any  wealthy  merchant  or  manufacturer  could  feel 
himself  secure  for  a  single  night  from  the  depredations  of 
Badhak  dacoits.  They  had  successfully  attacked  so  many 
of  the  treasuries  of  our  native  Sub-Collectors  that  it  was 
deemed  necessary,  all  over  the  North-Western  Provinces,  to 
surround  such  buildings  with  extensive  fortifications.  In 
many  cases  they  carried  off  our  public  treasure  from  strong 
parties  of  our  regular  troops  and  mounted  police  ;  and  none 
seemed  to  know  whence  they  came  or  whither  they  fled  with 
the  booty  acquired."  ' 

^  Sleeman,  p.  10. 


Colonel  Sleeman  thus  described  a  dacoity  in  the  town  of  3.  in- 

Narsinghpur  when  he  was  in  charge  of  that  District:  "In 
February  1822,  in  the  dusk  of  the  evening,  a  party  of  about 
thirty  persons,  with  nothing  seemingly  but  walking-sticks  in 
their  hands,  passed  the  piquet  of  sepoys  on  the  bank  of  the 
rivulet  which  separates  the  cantonment  from  the  town  of 
Narsinghpur.  On  being  challenged  by  the  sentries  they 
said  they  were  cowherds  and  that  their  cattle  were  following 
close  behind.  Tliey  walked  up  the  street  ;  and  coming 
opposite  the  houses  of  the  most  wealthy  merchants,  they  set 
their  torches  in  a  blaze  by  blowing  suddenly  on  pots  filled 
with  combustibles,  stabbed  everybody  who  ventured  to  move 
or  make  the  slightest  noise,  plundered  the  houses,  and  in  ten 
minutes  were  away  with  their  booty,  leaving  about  twelve 
persons  dead  and  wounded  on  the  ground.  No  trace  of 
them  was  discovered."  Another  well-known  exploit  of  the 
Badhaks  was  the  attack  on  the  palace  of  the  ex-Peshwa,  Baji 
Rao,  at  Bithur  near  Cawnpore.  This  was  accomplished  by  a 
gang  of  about  eighty  men,  who  proceeded  to  the  locality  in 
the  disguise  of  carriers  of  Ganges  water.  Having  purchased 
a  boat  and  a  few  muskets  to  intimidate  the  guard  they 
crossed  the  Ganges  about  six  miles  below  Bithur,  and  reached 
the  place  at  ten  o'clock  at  night ;  and  after  wounding 
eighteen  persons  who  attempted  resistance  they  possessed 
themselves  of  property,  chiefly  in  gold,  to  the  value  of  more 
than  two  and  a  half  lakhs  of  rupees  ;  and  retiring  without 
loss  made  their  way  in  safety  to  their  homes  in  the  Oudh 
forests.  The  residence  of  this  gang  was  known  to  a  British 
police  officer  in  the  King  of  Oudh's  service,  Mr.  Orr,  and 
after  a  long  delay  on  the  part  of  the  court  an  expedition 
was  sent  which  recovered  a  portion  of  the  treasure  and 
captured  two  or  three  hundred  of  the  Badhaks.  But  none  of 
the  recovered  property  reached  the  hands  of  Baji  Rao  and 
the  prisoners  were  soon  afterwards  released.^  Again  in 
1S39,  a  gang  of  about  fifty  men  under  a  well-known 
leader,  Gajraj,  scaled  the  walls  of  Jhansi  and  plundered 
the  Surafa  or  bankers'  quarter  of  the  town  for  two  hours, 
obtaining  booty  to  the  value  of  Rs.  40,000,  which  they 
carried    off   without    the    loss    of   a    man.      The    following 

^  Sleeman,  p.  10.  2  Sleeman,  p.  57. 

stances  of 



account  of  this  raid  was  obtained  by  Colonel  Sleeman  from 
one  of  the  robbers  :  ^  "  The  spy  {hirrowd)  having  returned 
and  reported  that  he  had  found  a  merchant's  house  in 
Jhansi  which  contained  a  good  deal  of  property,  we 
proceeded  to  a  grove  where  we  took  the  auspices  by  the 
process  of  akut  (counting  of  grains)  and  found  the  omens 
favourable.  We  then  rested  three  days  and  settled  the 
rates  according  to  which  the  booty  should  be  shared.  Four 
or  five  men,  who  were  considered  too  feeble  for  the  enter- 
prise, were  sent  back,  and  the  rest,  well  armed,  strong  and 
full  of  courage,  went  on.  In  the  evening  of  the  fourth  day 
we  reached  a  plain  about  a  mile  from  the  town,  where  we 
rested  to  take  breath  for  an  hour  ;  about  nine  o'clock  we 
got  to  the  wall  and  remained  under  it  till  midnight,  pre- 
paring the  ladders  from  materials  which  we  had  collected 
on  the  road.  They  were  placed  to  the  wall  and  we  entered 
and  passed  through  the  town  without  opposition.  A  mar- 
riage procession  was  going  on  before  us  and  the  people 
thought  we  belonged  to  it.  We  found  the  bankers'  shops 
closed.  Thana  and  Saldewa,  who  carried  the  axes,  soon 
broke  them  open,  while  Kulean  lighted  up  his  torch.  Gajraj 
with  twenty  men  entered,  while  the  rest  stood  posted  at  the 
different  avenues  leading  to  the  place.  When  all  the  pro- 
perty they  could  find  had  been  collected,  Gajraj  hailed  the 
god  Hanuman  and  gave  orders  for  the  retreat.  W^e  got 
back  safely  to  Mondegri  in  two  days  and  a  half,  and  then 
reposed  for  two  or  three  days  with  the  Raja  of  Narwar, 
with  whom  we  left  five  or  six  of  our  stoutest  men  as  a  guard, 
and  then  returned  home  with  our  booty,  consisting  chiefly 
of  diamonds,  emeralds,  gold  and  silver  bullion,  rupees  and 
about  sixty  pounds  of  silver  wire.  None  of  our  people 
were  either  killed  or  wounded,  but  whether  any  of  the 
bankers'  people  were  I  know  not." 

Colonel  Sleeman  writes  elsewhere "  of  the  leader  of  the 
above  exploit :  "  This  Gajraj  had  risen  from  the  vocation 
of  a  bandarwdla  (monkey  showman)  to  be  the  Robin  Hood 
of  Gwalior  and  the  adjacent  States  ;  he  was  the  governor- 
general  of  banditti  in  that  country  of  banditti  and  kept 
the  whole  in  awe  ;  he  had  made  himself  so  formidable  that 

^  Sleeman,  p.  95.  2  Sleeman,  p.  231. 


the  Durbar  ap[)ointcd  him  to  keep  the  g/idts  or  ferries  over 
the  Chambal,  which  he  did  in  a  very  profitable  manner  to 
them  and  to  himself,  and  none  entered  or  quitted  the 
country  without  paying  blackmail."  A  common  practice  of 
the  Badhaks,  when  in  need  of  a  little  ready  money,  was  to 
lie  in  wait  for  money-changers  on  their  return  from  the 
markets.  These  men  take  their  bags  of  money  with  them 
to  the  important  bazars  at  a  distance  from  their  residence 
and  return  home  with  them  after  dusk.  The  dacoits  were 
accustomed  to  watch  for  them  in  the  darkest  and  most 
retired  places  on  the  roads  and  fell  them  to  the  ground 
with  their  bludgeons.  This  device  was  often  practised  and 
usually  succeeded.^  Of  another  Badhak  chief,  Meherban,  it 
is  stated "  that  he  hired  a  discharged  sepoy  to  instruct  his 
followers  in  the  European  system  of  drill,  that  they  might 
travel  with  him  in  the  disguise  of  regular  soldiers,  well 
armed  and  accoutred.  During  the  rains  Meherban's  spies 
(Jtirrowa)  were  sent  to  visit  the  great  commercial  towns  and 
report  any  despatches  of  money  or  other  valuables,  which 
were  to  take  place  during  the  following  open  season.  His 
own  favourite  disguise  was  that  of  a  Hindu  prince,  while  the 
remainder  of  the  gang  constituted  his  retinue  and  escort. 
On  one  occasion,  assuming  this  character,  he  followed  up 
a  boat  laden  with  Spanish  dollars  which  was  being  sent  from 
Calcutta  to  Benares  ;  and  having  attacked  it  at  its  moorings 
at  Makrai,  he  killed  one  and  wounded  ten  men  of  the  guard 
and  made  off  with  25,000  Spanish  dollars  and  Rs.  2600 
of  the  Company's  coinage.  A  part  of  the  band  were  sent 
direct  to  the  rendezvous  previously  arranged,  while  Meher- 
ban returned  to  the  grove  where  he  had  left  his  women  and 
proceeded  with  them  in  a  more  leisurely  fashion  to  the  same 
place.  Retaining  the  character  of  a  native  prince  he  halted 
here  for  two  days  to  celebrate  the  Holi  festival.  Marching 
thence  with  his  women  conveyed  in  covered  litters  by  hired 
bearers  who  were  changed  at  intervals,  he  proceeded  to  his 
bivouac  in  the  Oudh  forests  ;  and  at  Seosagar,  one  of  his 
halting-places,  he  gave  a  large  sum  of  money  to  a  gardener 
to  plant  a  grove  of  mango  trees  near  a  tank  for  the  benefit 
of  travellers,  in  the  name  of  Raja  Meherban  Singh  of  Gaur 

^  Sleeman,  p.  217.  '^  Sleeman,  p.  20. 

54  BADHAK  part 

in  Oudh  ;  and  promised  him  further  alms  on  future  occa- 
sions of  pilgrimage  if  he  found  the  work  progressing  well, 
saying  that  it  was  a  great  shame  that  travellers  should  be 
compelled  as  he  had  been  to  halt  without  shade  for  them- 
selves or  their  families  during  the  heat  of  the  day.  He 
arrived  safely  at  his  quarters  in  the  forest  and  was  received 
in  the  customary  fashion  by  a  procession  of  women  in  their 
best  attire,  who  conducted  him  with  dancing  and  music,  like 
a  victorious  Roman  Proconsul,  to  his  fort.^ 
5.  Disguise  But  naturally  not  all   the   Badhaks   could   do  things  in 

mendF°"^  the  Style  of   Meherban    Singh.      The    disguise    which    they 
cants.  most    often    assumed   in   the   north   was   that  of  carriers   of 

Ganges  water,  while  in  Central  India  they  often  pretended 
to  be  Banjaras  travelling  with  pack-bullocks,  or  pilgrims,  or 
wedding -parties  going  to  fetch  the  bride  or  bridegroom. 
Sometimes  also  they  took  the  character  of  religious 
mendicants,  the  leader  being  the  high  priest  and  all  the 
rest  his  followers  and  disciples.  One  such  gang,  described 
by  Colonel  Sleeman,"  had  four  or  five  tents  of  white  and 
dyed  cloth,  two  or  three  pairs  of  7iakkdras  or  kettle-drums 
and  trumpets,  with  a  great  number  of  buffaloes,  cows,  goats, 
sheep  and  ponies.  Some  were  clothed,  but  the  bodies  of 
the  greater  part  were  covered  with  nothing  but  ashes,  paint 
and  a  small  cloth  waistband.  But  they  always  provided 
themselves  with  five  or  six  real  Bairagis,  whose  services 
they  purchased  at  a  very  high  price.  These  men  were 
put  forward  to  answer  questions  in  case  of  difficulty  and 
to  bully  the  landlords  and  peasantry  ;  and  if  the  people 
demurred  to  the  demands  of  the  Badhaks,  to  intimidate 
them  by  tricks  calculated  to  play  upon  the  fears  of  the 
ignorant.  They  held  in  their  hands  a  preparation  of  gun- 
powder resembling  common  ashes  ;  and  when  they  found 
the  people  very  stubborn  they  repeated  their  viafttras  over 
this  and  threw  it  upon  the  thatch  of  the  nearest  house,  to 
which  it  set  fire.  The  explosion  was  caused  by  a  kind  of 
fusee  held  in  the  hand  which  the  people  could  not  see,  and 
taking  it  for  a  miracle  they  paid  all  that  was  demanded. 
Another  method  was  to  pretend  to  be  carrying  the  bones 
of  dead   relatives    to  the  Ganges.      The   bones  or  ashes  of 

'   Sleeman,  p.  21.  -  Sleeman,  p.  81. 


the  deceased,  says '  Colonel  Slceman,  are  carried  to  the 
Ganges  in  bags,  coloured  red  for  females  and  white  for 
males.  These  bags  are  considered  holy,  and  are  not  allowed 
to  touch  the  ground  upon  the  way,  and  during  halts  in 
the  journey  are  placed  on  poles  or  triangles.  The  carriers 
are  regarded  with  respect  as  persons  engaged  upon  a 
pious  duty,  and  seldom  questioned  on  the  road.  When 
a  gang  assumed  this  disguise  they  proceeded  to  their 
place  of  rendezvous  in  small  parties,  some  with  red  and 
some  with  white  bags,  in  which  they  carried  the  bones  of 
animals  most  resembling  those  of  the  human  frame.  These 
were  supported  on  triangles  formed  of  the  shafts  on  which 
the  spear -heads  would  be  fitted  when  they  reached  their 
destination  and  had  prepared  for  action. 

It  would  have  been  impossible  for  the  Badhaks  to  exist  6.  Counte- 
and  flourish  as  they  did  without  the  protection  of  the  land-  "l^lj'^sup. 
owners  on  whose  estates  they  lived  ;  and  this  they  received  port  of 
in  full  measure  in  return  for  a  liberal  share  of  their  booty,  o^wners. 
When  the  chief  of  Karauli  was  called  upon  to  dislodge  a 
gang  witliin  his  territory,  he  expressed  apprehension  that  the 
coercion  of  the  Badhaks  might  cause  a  revolution  in  the 
State.  He  was  not  at  all  singular,  says  Colonel  Sleeman,  in 
his  fear  of  exasperating  this  formidable  tribe  of  robbers. 
It  was  common  to  all  the  smaller  chiefs  and  the  provincial 
governors  of  the  larger  ones.  They  everywhere  protected 
and  fostered  the  Badhaks,  as  did  the  landholders  ;  and  the 
highest  of  them  associated  with  the  leaders  of  gangs  on  terms 
of  equality  and  confidence.  It  was  very  common  for  a  chief 
or  the  governor  of  a  district  in  times  of  great  difficulty  and 
personal  danger  to  require  from  one  of  the  leaders  of  such 
gangs  a  night-guard  or  palmig  ki  chauki :  and  no  less  so  to 
entertain  large  bodies  of  them  in  the  attack  and  defence  of 
forts  and  camps  whenever  unusual  courage  and  skill  were 
required.  The  son  of  the  Raja  of  Charda  exchanged  turbans 
with  a  Badhak  leader,  Mangal  Singh,  as  a  mark  of  the  most 
intimate  friendship.  This  episode  recalls  an  alliance  of 
similar  character  in  Lorna  Doom  ;  and  indeed  it  would  not 
be  difficult  to  find  several  points  of  resemblance  between  the 
careers   of   the   more   enterprising    Badhak  leaders  and  the 

'  Sleeman,  p.  82. 

56  BADHAK  part 

Doones  of  Bagworthy  ;  but  India  produced  no  character  on 
the  model  of  John  Ridd,  and  it  was  reserved  for  an 
Englishman,  Colonel  Sleeman,  to  achieve  the  suppression  of 
the  Badhaks  as  well  as  that  of  the  Thugs.  After  the  fortress 
and  territory  of  Garhakota  in  Saugor  had  been  taken  by  the 
Maharaja  Sindhia,  Zalim  Singh,  a  cousin  of  the  dispossessed 
Bundela  chief,  collected  a  force  of  Bundelas  and  Pindaris  and 
ravaged  the  country  round  Garhakota  in  1 8 1  3.  In  the  course 
of  his  raid  he  sacked  and  burnt  the  town  of  Deori,  and  i  5,000 
persons  perished  in  the  flames.  Colonel  Jean  Baptiste, 
Sindhia's  general,  obtained  a  number  of  picked  Badhaks 
from  Rajputana  and  offered  them  a  rich  reward  for  the  head 
of  Zalim  Singh  ;  and  after  watching  his  camp  for  three 
months  they  managed  to  come  on  him  asleep  in  the  tent  of 
a  dancing-girl,  who  was  following  his  camp,  and  stabbed 
him  to  the  heart.  For  this  deed  they  received  Rs.  20,000 
from  Baptiste  with  other  valuable  presents.  Their  reputa- 
tion was  indeed  such  that  they  were  frequently  employed 
at  this  period  both  by  chiefs  who  desired  to  take  the  lives  of 
others  and  by  those  who  were  anxious  for  the  preservation 
of  their  own.  When  it  happened  that  a  gang  was  caught 
after  a  robbery  in  a  native  State,  the  custom  was  not  infre- 
quently to  make  them  over  to  the  merchant  whose  property 
they  had  taken,  with  permission  to  keep  them  in  confinement 
until  they  should  refund  his  money  ;  and  in  this  manner  by 
giving  up  the  whole  or  a  part  of  the  proceeds  of  their  robbery 
they  were  enabled  to  regain  their  liberty.  Even  if  they  were 
sent  before  the  courts,  justice  was  at  that  time  so  corrupt 
as  to  permit  of  easy  avenues  of  escape  for  those  who  could 
afford  to  pay  ;  and  Colonel  Sleeman  records  the  deposition  of 
a  Badhak  describing  their  methods  of  briber}^ :  "  When  police 
officers  arrest  Badhaks  their  old  women  get  round  them  and 
give  them  large  sums  of  money  ;  and  they  either  release  them 
or  get  their  depositions  so  written  that  their  release  shall  be 
ordered  by  the  magistrates.  If  they  are  brought  to  court, 
their  old  women,  dressed  in  rags,  follow  them  at  a  distance 
of  three  or  four  miles  with  a  thousand  or  two  thousand 
rupees  upon  ponies  ;  and  these  rupees  they  distribute  among 
the  native  officers  of  the  court  and  get  the  Badhaks  released. 
These  old  women  first  ascertain  from  the  people  of  the  villages 


who  are  the  Nazirs  and  Munshis  of  influence,  and  wait 
upon  them  at  their  houses  and  make  their  bargains.  If  the 
officials  cannot  effect  their  release,  they  take  money  from 
the  old  women  and  send  them  off  to  the  Sadar  Court,  with 
letters  of  introduction  to  their  friends,  and  advice  as  to  the 
rate  they  shall  pay  to  each  according  to  his  supposed  influ- 
ence. This  is  the  way  that  all  our  leaders  get  released,  and 
hardly  any  but  useless  men  are  left  in  confinement."  ^ 

It  may  be  noticed  that  these  robbers  took  the  utmost  7.  Pride  in 
pleasure  in  their  calling,  and  were  most  averse  to  the  idea  of  profession. 
giving  it  up  and  taking  to  honest  pursuits.  "  Some  of  the 
men  with  me,"  one  magistrate  wrote,"  "  have  been  in  jail  for 
twenty,  and  one  man  for  thirty  years,  and  still  do  not  appear 
to  have  any  idea  of  abandoning  their  illegal  vocation  ;  even 
now,  indeed,  they  look  on  what  we  consider  an  honest  means 
of  livelihood  with  the  most  marked  contempt  ;  and  in  relating 
their  excursions  talk  of  them  with  the  greatest  pleasure, 
much  in  the  way  an  eager  sportsman  describes  a  boar-chase 
or  fox-hunt.  While  talking  of  their  excursions,  which  were 
to  me  really  very  interesting,  their  eyes  gleamed  with 
pleasure  ;  and  beating  their  hands  on  their  foreheads  and 
breasts  and  muttering  some  ejaculation  they  bewailed  the 
hardness  of  their  lot,  which  now  ensured  their  never  again 
being  able  to  participate  in  such  a  joyous  occupation." 
Another  Badhak,  on  being  examined,  said  he  could  not 
recall  a  case  of  one  of  the  community  having  ever  given  up 
the  trade  of  dacoity.  "  None  ever  did,  I  am  certain  of  it, " 
he  continued.^  "  After  having  been  arrested,  on  our  release 
we  frequently  take  lands,  to  make  it  appear  we  have  left  off 
dacoity,  but  we  never  do  so  in  reality  ;  it  is  only  done  as  a 
feint  and  to  enable  our  zamindars  (landowners)  to  screen 
us."  They  sometimes  paid  rent  for  their  land  at  the  rate 
of  thirty  rupees  an  acre,  in  return  for  the  countenance  and 
protection  afforded  by  the  zamindars.  "  Our  profession," 
another  Badhak  remarked,'*  "  has  been  a  PadsJidhi  Kdin 
(a  king's  trade)  ;  we  have  attacked  and  seized  boldly  the 
thousands  and   hundreds   of  thousands   that  we   have  freely 

1  Sleeman,  p.  152.  Mr.  Ramsay. 

^  Sleeman,  p.  127.      This  passage  is  -^  Sleeman,  p.  129. 

from  a  letter  written   by  a  magistrate,  ■*  Sleeman,  p.  112. 

58  BADHAK  part 

and  nobly  spent  ;  we  have  been   all  our  lives  wallowing  in 
wealth  and  basking  in  freedom,  and  find   it  hard  to  manage 
with  the  few  copper  pice  a  day  we  get  from  you,"      At  the 
time  when  captures  were  numerous,  and  the  idea  was  enter- 
tained of  inducing  the  dacoits  to  settle  in  villages  and  sup- 
porting them  until  they  had   been  trained  to  labour,  several 
of  them,  on  being  asked  how  much  they  would  require  to 
support  themselves,  replied   that  they  could   not  manage  on 
less  than  two  rupees  a  day,  having  earned  quite  that  sum  by 
dacoity.      This  amount  would  be  more  than  twenty  times  the 
wages  of  an  ordinary  labourer  at  the  same  period.      Another 
witness  put  the  amount  at  one  to  two  rupees  a  day,  remark- 
ing, '  We  are  great  persons  for  eating  and  drinking,  and  we 
keep  several  wives  according  to  our  means.'      Of  some  of 
them  Colonel  Sleeman  had  a  high  opinion,  and  he  mentions 
the  case  of  one   man,  Ajit   Singh,  who  was  drafted  into  the 
native  army  and  rose  to  be  commander  of  a  company.      "  I 
have    seldom    seen    a    man,"    he   wrote,^   "  whom    I    would 
rather  have  with  me  in  scenes  of  peril  and  difficulty."      An 
attempt  of  the  King  of  Oudh's,  however,  to  form  a  regiment 
of  Badhaks  had  ended   in  failure,  as  after  a  short  time  they 
mutinied,    beat    their   commandant    and    other   officers    and 
turned  them  out  of  the  regiment,  giving  as  their  reason  that 
the  officers  had   refused  to   perform   the  same  duties  as  the 
men.      And  they  visited   with  the    same   treatment  all   the 
other  officers  sent  to  them,   until  they  were  disbanded   by 
the  British  on  the  province  of  Allahabad  being  made  over  to 
the  Company.      Colonel  Sleeman  notes  that  they  were  never 
known  to  offer  any  other  violence  or  insult  to  females  than 
to  make  them  give  up  any  gold   ornaments  that  they  might 
have  about   their  persons.      "  In    all    my  inquiries  into  the 
character,  habits  and  conduct  of  these  gangs,  I  have  never 
found   an    instance  of  a  female  having   been   otherwise   dis- 
graced or  insulted  by  them.      They  are  all  Hindus,  and  this 
reverence  for  the  sex  pervades  all  Hindu  society." "     Accord- 
ing to  their  own  account  also  they  never  committed  murder  ; 
if  people  opposed  them  they  struck  and  killed  like  soldiers, 
but  this  was  considered  to  be  in  fair  fight.     It  may  be  noted, 
nevertheless,  that  they  had  little    idea  of  clan  loyalty,  and 

^  Sleeman,  p.  124.  2,  p.   125. 


informed  very  freely  against  their  fellows  when  this  course 
was  to  their  advantage.  They  also  stated  that  they  could 
not  settle  in  towns  ;  they  had  always  been  accustomed  to 
live  in  the  jungles  and  commit  dacoitics  upon  the  people  of 
the  towns  as  a  kind  of  shikar  (sport) ;  they  delighted  in  it, 
and  they  felt  living  in  towns  or  among  other  men  as  a  kind 
of  prison,  and  got  quite  confused  {ghabrdye),  and  their  women 
even  more  than  the  men. 

The    Badhaks    had    a    regular   caste    organisation,    and  8.  Caste 

I  H 

members  of  the  different  clans  married  with  each  other  like  I^'^^^ig^"^,, 
the  Rajputs  after  whom  they  were  named.  They  admitted  ofout- 
freely  into  the  community  members  of  any  respectable 
Hindu  caste,  but  not  the  impure  castes  or  Muhammadans. 
But  at  least  one  instance  of  the  admission  of  a  Muham- 
madan  is  given.^  The  Badhaks  were  often  known  to  the 
people  as  Siarkhavva  or  jackal-eaters,  or  Sabkhawa,  those 
who  eat  everything.  And  the  Muhammadan  in  question 
was  given  jackal's  flesh  to  eat,  and  having  partaken  of  it 
was  considered  to  have  become  a  member  of  the  com- 
munity. This  indicates  that  the  Badhaks  were  probably 
accustomed  to  eat  the  flesh  of  the  jackal  at  a  sacrificial 
meal,  and  hence  that  they  worshipped  the  jackal,  revering 
it  probably  as  the  deity  of  the  forests  where  they  lived. 
Such  a  veneration  would  account  for  the  importance 
attached  to  the  jackal's  cry  as  an  omen.  The  fact  of  their 
eating  jackals  also  points  to  the  conclusion  that  the  Badhaks 
were  not  Rajputs,  but  a  low  hunting  caste  like  the  Pardhis 
and  Bahelias.  The  Pardhis  have  Rajput  sept  names  as  well 
as  the  Badhaks.  No  doubt  a  few  outcaste  Rajputs  may 
have  joined  the  gangs  and  become  their  leaders.  Others, 
however,  said  that  they  abstained  from  the  flesh  of  jackals, 
snakes,  foxes  and  cows  and  buffaloes.  Children  were 
frequently  adopted,  being  purchased  in  large  numbers  in 
time  of  famine,  and  also  occasionally  kidnapped.  They 
were  brought  up  to  the  trade  of  dacoity,  and  if  they  showed 
sufficient  aptitude  for  it  were  taken  out  on  expeditions, 
but  otherwise  left  at  home  to  manage  the  household  affairs. 
They  were  married  to  other  adopted  children  and  were 
known    as    Ghulami    or    Slave    Badhaks,    like    the    Jangar 

^  Sleeman,  p.  147. 

6o  BADHAK  part 

Banjaras  ;  and  like  them  also,  after  some  generations,  when 
their  real  origin  had  been  forgotten,  they  became  full 
Badhaks.  It  was  very  advantageous  to  a  Badhak  to  have 
a  number  of  children,  because  all  plunder  obtained  was 
divided  in  regularly  apportioned  shares  among  the  whole 
community.  Men  who  were  too  old  to  go  on  dacoity  also 
received  their  share,  and  all  children,  even  babies  born 
during  the  absence  of  the  expedition.  The  Badhaks  said 
that  this  rule  was  enforced  because  they  thought  it  an 
advantage  to  the  community  that  families  should  be  large 
and  their  numbers  should  increase  ;  from  which  statement 
it  must  be  concluded  that  they  seldom  suffered  any  strin- 
gency from  lack  of  spoil.  They  also  stated  that  Badhak 
widows  would  go  and  find  a  second  husband  from  among 
the  regular  population,  and  as  a  rule  would  sooner  or  later 
persuade  him  to  join  the  Badhaks. 
9.  Reii-  Like  other  Indian  criminals  the  Badhaks  were  of  a  very 

^!?".'      .    religious  or  superstitious  disposition.      They  considered  the 

offerings  to  •=•  ^  ^  _  ■'  _ 

ancestors,  gods  of  the  Hindu  creed  as  favouring  their  undertakings 
so  long  as  they  were  suitably  propitiated  by  offering  to 
their  temples  and  priests,  and  the  spirits  of  the  most 
distinguished  of  their  ancestors  as  exercising  a  vicarious 
authority  under  these  deities  in  guiding  them  to  their  prey 
and  warning  them  of  danger.^  The  following  is  an  account 
of  a  Badhak  sacrifice  given  to  Colonel  Sleeman  by  the 
Ajit  Singh  already  mentioned.  It  was  in  celebration  of  a 
dacoity  in  which  they  had  obtained  Rs.  40,000,  out  of 
which  Rs.  4500  were  set  aside  for  sacrifices  to  the  gods 
and  charity  to  the  poor.  AjTt  Singh  said  :  "  For  offerings 
to  the  gods  we  purchase  goats,  sweet  cakes  and  spirits  ; 
and  having  prepared  a  feast  we  throw  a  handful  of  the 
savoury  food  upon  the  fire  in  the  name  of  the  gods  who 
have  most  assisted  us  ;  but  of  the  feast  so  consecrated 
no  female  but  a  virgin  can  partake.  The  offering  is  made 
through  the  man  who  has  successfully  invoked  the  god 
on  that  particular  occasion  ;  and,  as  my  god  had  guided  us 
this  time,  I  was  employed  to  prepare  the  feast  for  him 
and  to  throw  the  offering  upon  the  fire.  The  offering  must 
be  taken  up  before  the  feast  is  touched  and  put  upon  the 

'  Sleeman,  p.  104. 


fire,  and  a  little  water  must  be  sprinkled  on  it.  The  savoury 
smell  of  the  food  as  it  burns  feaches  the  nostrils  of  the  j^od 
and  delights  him.  On  this  as  on  most  occasions  I  invoked 
the  spirit  of  Ganga  Singh,  my  grandfather,  and  to  him  I 
made  the  offering.  I  considered  him  to  be  the  greatest 
of  all  my  ancestors  as  a  robber,  and  him  I  invoked  on  this 
solemn  occasion.  He  never  failed  me  when  I  invoked  him, 
and  I  had  the  greatest  confidence  in  his  aid.  The  spirits 
of  our  ancestors  can  easily  see  whether  we  shall  succeed 
in  what  we  are  about  to  undertake  ;  and  when  we  are  to 
succeed  they  order  us  on,  and  when  we  are  not  they  make 
signs  to  us  to  desist."  Their  mode  ^  of  ascertaining  which 
of  their  ancestors  interested  himself  most  in  their  affairs 
was  commonly  this,  that  whenever  a  person  talked  inco- 
herently in  a  fever  or  an  epileptic  fit,  the  spirit  of  one 
or  other  of  his  ancestors  was  supposed  to  be  upon  him. 
If  they  were  in  doubt  as  to  whose  spirit  it  was,  one  of  them 
threw  down  some  grains  of  wheat  or  coloured  glass  beads, 
a  pinch  at  a  time,  saying  the  name  of  the  ancestor  he 
supposed  the  most  likely  to  be  at  work  and  calling  odd 
or  even  as  he  pleased.  If  the  number  proved  to  be  as 
he  called  it  several  times  running  while  that  name  was 
repeated,  they  felt  secure  of  their  family  god,  and  proceeded 
at  once  to  sacrifice  a  goat  or  something  else  in  his  name. 
When  they  were  being  hunted  down  and  arrested  by 
Colonel  Sleeman  and  his  assistants,  they  ascribed  their 
misfortunes  to  the  anger  of  the  goddess  Kali,  because  they 
had  infringed  her  rules  and  disregarded  her  signs,  and  said 
that  their  forefathers  had  often  told  them  they  would  one 
day  be  punished  for  their  disobedience." 

Whenever  one  of  the  gang  was  wounded  and  was  taken  lo.  The 
with  his  wounds  bleeding  near  a  place  haunted  by  a  spirit,  hTumed'^b 
they  believed   the  spirit   got   angry  and   took   hold   of  him,^  spirits. 
in   the   manner  described  by  A  jit   Singh  as   follows:    "The 
spirit    comes    upon    him   in   all   kinds   of  shapes,   sometimes 
in   that  of  a  buffalo,  at  others  in  that  of  a  woman,  some- 
times   in    the    air    above   and    sometimes    from    the   ground 
below  ;  but  no  one  can  see  him  except  the  wounded  person 

1  Sleeman,  p.  no.  -  Sleeman,  p.  131. 

^  Sleeman,  p.  205. 

62  BADHAK  part 

he  is  angry  with  and  wants  to  punish.  Upon  such  a 
wounded  person  we  always  ^lace  a  naked  sword  or  some 
other  sharp  steel  instrument,  as  spirits  are  much  afraid  of 
weapons  of  this  kind.  If  there  be  any  good  conjurer  at 
hand  to  charm  away  the  spirits  from  the  person  wounded 
he  recovers,  but  nothing  else  can  save  him."  In  one  case 
a  dacoit  named  Ghlsa  had  been  severely  wounded  in  an 
encounter  and  was  seized  by  the  spirit  of  a  banyan  tree 
as  he  was  being  taken  away  :  "  We  made  a  litter  with  our 
ropes  and  cloaks  thrown  over  them  and  on  this  he  was 
carried  off  by  four  of  our  party  ;  at  half  a  mile  distant  the 
road  passed  under  a  large  banyan  tree  and  as  the  four  men 
carried  him  along  under  the  tree,  the  spirit  of  the  place  fell 
upon  him  and  the  four  men  who  carried  him  fell  down  with 
the  shock.  They  could  not  raise  him  again,  so  much  were 
they  frightened,  and  four  other  men  were  obliged  to  lift  him 
and  carry  him  off."  The  man  died  of  his  wounds  soon 
after  they  reached  the  halting-place,  and  in  commenting  on 
this  Ajit  Singh  continued  :  "  When  the  spirit  seized  Ghisa 
under  the  tree  we  had  unfortunately  no  conjurer,  and  he, 
poor  fellow,  died  in  consequence.  It  was  evident  that  a 
spirit  had  got  hold  of  him,  for  he  could  not  keep  his  head 
upright ;  it  always  fell  down  upon  his  right  or  left  shoulder 
as  often  as  we  tried  to  put  it  right ;  and  he  complained 
much  of  a  pain  in  the  region  of  the  liver.  We  therefore 
concluded  that  the  spirit  had  broken  his  neck  and  was 
consuming  his  liver." 
II.  Pious  Like    pious   Hindus    as    they    were,   the    Badhaks    w^ere 

funeral  ob-  accustomcd,  whcncvcr  it  was  possible,  to  preserve  the  bones 

servances.  r  ■>  r 

of  their  dead  after  the  body  had  been  burnt  and  carry  them 
to  the  Ganges,  If  this  was  not  possible,  however,  and  the 
exigencies  of  their  profession  obliged  them  to  make  away 
with  the  body  without  the  performance  of  due  funeral  rites, 
they  cut  off  two  or  three  fingers  and  sent  these  to  the  Ganges 
to  be  deposited  instead  of  the  whole  body.^  In  one  case  a 
dacoit,  Kundana,  was  killed  in  an  affray,  and  the  others 
carried  off  his  body  and  thrust  it  into  a  porcupine's  hole 
after  cutting  off  three  of  the  fingers.  "  We  gave  Kundana's 
fingers  to  his  mother,"  Ajit  Singh  stated,  "  and  she  sent  them 

'  Sleeman,  p.  io6. 


with  due  offerings  and  ceremonies  to  the  Ganges  by  the 
hands  of  the  family  priest.  She  gave  this  priest  money  to 
purchase  a  cow,  to  be  presented  to  the  priests  in  the  name  of 
her  deceased  son,  and  to  distribute  in  charity  to  the  poor  and 
to  holy  men.  She  got  from  us  for  these  purposes  eighty 
rupees  over  and  above  her  son's  share  of  the  booty,  while 
his  widow  and  children  continued  to  receive  their  usual 
share  of  the  takings  of  the  gang  so  long  as  they  remained 
with  us." 

Before  setting  out  on  an  expedition  it  was  their  regular  12-  Taking 
custom  to  take  the  omens,  and  the  following  account  may  be 
quoted  of  the  preliminaries  to  an  expedition  of  the  great 
leader,  Meherban  Singh,  who  has  already  been  mentioned  : 
"  In  the  latter  end  of  that  year,  Meherban  and  his  brother  set 
out  and  assembled  their  friends  on  the  bank  of  the  Bisori 
river,  where  the  rate  at  which  each  member  of  the  party 
should  share  in  the  spoil  was  determined  in  order  to  secure 
to  the  dependants  of  any  one  who  should  fall  in  the  enter- 
prise their  due  share,  as  well  as  to  prevent  inconvenient 
disputes  during  and  after  the  expedition.  The  party 
assembled  on  this  occasion,  including  women  and  children, 
amounted  to  two  hundred,  and  when  the  shares  had  been 
determined  the  goats  were  sacrificed  for  the  feast.  Each 
leader  and  member  of  the  gang  dipped  his  finger  in  the 
blood  and  swore  fidelity  to  his  engagements  and  his  asso- 
ciates under  all  circumstances.  The  v^hole  feasted  together 
and  drank  freely  till  the  next  evening,  when  Meherban 
advanced  with  about  twenty  of  the  principal  persons  to  a 
spot  chosen  a  little  way  from  the  camp  on  the  road  they 
proposed  to  take  in  the  expedition,  and  lifting  up  his  hands 
in  supplication  said  aloud,  '  If  it  be  thy  will,  O  God,  and 
thine,  Kali,  to  prosper  our  undertaking  for  the  sake  of  the 
blind  and  the  lame,  tJie  widoiv  and  tJie  orpJian,  who  depend 
upon  our  exertions  for  subsistence,  vouchsafe,  we  pray  thee, 
the  call  of  the  female  jackal.'  All  his  followers  held  up 
their  hands  in  the  same  manner  and  repeated  these  words 
after  him.  All  then  sat  down  and  waited  in  silence  for 
the  reply  or  spoke  only  in  whispers.  At  last  the  cry  of 
the  female  jackal  was  heard  three  times  on  the  left,  and 
believing    her    to     have    been    inspired    by    the    deity    for 

64  BADHAK  part 

their  guidance  they  were  all  much  rejoiced."  The  follow- 
ing was  another  more  elaborate  method  of  taking  omens 
described  by  Ajit  Singh  :  "  When  we  speak  of  seeking 
omens  from  our  gods  or  Devi  Deota,  we  mean  the  spirits 
of  those  of  our  ancestors  who  performed  great  exploits  in 
dacoity  in  their  day,  gained  a  great  name  and  established 
lasting  reputations.  For  instance,  Mahajit,  my  grandfather, 
and  Sahiba,  his  father,  are  called  gods  and  admitted  to 
be  so  by  us  all.  We  have  all  of  us  some  such  gods  to  be 
proud  of  among  our  ancestors  ;  we  propitiate  them  and  ask 
for  favourable  omens  from  them  before  we  enter  upon 
any  enterprise.  We  sometimes  propitiate  the  Suraj  Deota 
(sun  god)  and  seek  good  omens  from  him.  We  get  tv/o 
or  three  goats  or  rams,  and  sometimes  even  ten  or  eleven, 
at  the  place  where  we  determine  to  take  the  auspices, 
and  having  assembled  the  principal  men  of  the  gang  we 
put  water  into  the  mouth  of  one  of  them  and  pray  to  the 
sun  and  to  our  ancestors  thus  :  '  O  thou  Sun  God  !  And 
O  all  ye  other  Gods  !  If  we  are  to  succeed  in  the  enter- 
prise we  are  about  to  undertake  we  pray  you  to  cause 
these  goats  to  shake  their  bodies.'  If  they  do  not  shake 
them  after  the  gods  have  been  thus  duly  invoked,  the  enter- 
prise must  not  be  entered  upon  and  the  goats  are  not 
sacrificed.  We  then  try  the  auspices  with  wheat.  We 
burn  frankincense  and  scented  wood  and  blow  a  shell  ;  and 
taking  out  a  pinch  of  wheat  grains,  put  them  on  the  cloth 
and  count  them.  If  they  come  up  odd  the  omen  is  favour- 
able, and  if  even  it  is  bad.  After  this,  which  we  call  the 
auspices  of  the  Akut,  we  take  that  of  the  Siarni  or  female 
jackal.  If  it  calls  on  the  left  it  is  good,  but  if  on  the  right 
bad.  If  the  omens  turn  out  favourable  in  all  three  trials 
then  we  have  no  fear  whatever,  but  if  they  are  favour- 
able in  only  one  trial  out  of  the  three  the  enterprise  must  be 
given  up." 
13.  Sup-  Between  1837  and  1849  the  suppression  of  the  regular 

dacoTt°"  °^  practice  of  armed  dacoity  was  practically  achieved  by  Colonel 
Sleeman.  A  number  of  officers  were  placed  under  his  orders, 
and  with  small  bodies  of  military  and  police  were  set  to  hunt 
down  different  bands  of  dacoits,  following  them  all  over 
India  when   necessary.      And   special   Acts   were   passed   to 

II        HA  1)11  A KS  OR  liAORlS  AR  TllJi  J'RKSJiNI'  77/1//:'      65 

enable  the  offence  of  dacoity,  wherever  committed,  to  be 
tried  by  a  com[)ctent  magistrate  in  any  part  of  India  as  had 
been  done  in  the  case  of  the  Thugs.  Many  of  the  Badhaks 
received  conditional  pardons,  and  were  drafted  into  the  police 
in  different  stations,  and  an  agricultural  labour  colony  was 
also  formed,  but  does  not  seem  to  have  been  altogether 
successful.  During  these  twelve  years  more  than  1200 
dacoits  in  all  were  brought  to  trial,  while  some  were  killed 
during  the  operations,  and  no  doubt  many  others  escaped 
and  took  to  other  avocations,  or  became  ordinary  criminals 
when  their  armed  gangs  were  broken  up.  In  1825  it  had 
been  estimated  that  the  Oudh  forests  alone  contained  from 
4000  to  6000  dacoits,  while  the  property  stolen  in  1 8  i  i 
from  known  dacoities  was  valued  at  ten  lakhs  of  rupees. 

The  Badhaks  still  exist,  and  are  well  known  as  one  m-  The 
of  the  worst  classes  of  criminals,  practising  ordinary  o'rBaori's 
house-breaking  and  theft.  The  name  Badhak  is  now  less  at  the 
commonly  used  than  those  of  Bagri  and  Baori  or  Bawaria,  time!" 
both  of  which  were  borne  by  the  original  Badhaks.  The 
word  Bagri  is  derived  from  a  tract  of  country  in  Malwa 
which  is  known  as  the  Bagar  or  '  hedge  of  thorns,'  because 
it  is  surrounded  on  all  sides  by  wooded  hills.^  There  are 
Bagri  Jats  and  Bagri  Rajputs,  many  of  whom  are  now  highly 
respectable  landholders.  Bawaria  or  Baori  is  derived  from 
bdnwar,  a  creeper,  or  the  tendril  of  a  vine,  and  hence  a 
noose  made  originally  from  some  fibrous  plant  and  used 
for  trapping  animals,  this  being  one  of  the  primary  occupa- 
tions of  the  tribe.^  The  term  Badhak  signifies  a  hunter 
or  fowler,  hence  a  robber  or  murderer  (Platts).  The  Bagris 
and  Bawarias  are  sometimes  considered  to  be  separate 
communities,  but  it  is  doubtful  whether  there  is  any  real 
distinction  between  them.  In  Bombay  the  Bagris  are  known 
as  Vaghris  by  the  common  change  of  b  into  v.  A  good 
description  of  them  is  contained  in  Appendix  C  to  Mr. 
Bhimbhai  Kirparam's  volume  Hindus  of  Gujarat  in  the 
Bombay  Gazetteer.  He  divides  them  into  the  Chunaria  or 
lime-burners,  the  Datonia  or  sellers  of  twig  tooth-brushes, 
and    two   other   groups,   and   states  that,  "  They  also  keep 

^   Malcolm's     Memoir     of     Central  ^  Ciooke's    Tribes  and   Castes,  art. 

India,  ii.  p.  479.  Bawaria. 

VOL.  II  F 


66  BADHAK  part 

fowls    and    sell    eggs,   catch    birds   and    go    as  shikaris  or 
hunters.       They    traffic    in    green    parrots,   which   they  buy 
from  Bhils  and  sell  for  a  profit." 
15.  Lizard-  Their  strength  and  powers  of  endurance  are  great,  the 

same  writer  states,  and  they  consider  that  these  qualities  are 
obtained  by  the  eating  of  the  goh  and  sdndJia  or  iguana 
lizards,  which  a  Vaghri  prizes  very  highly.  This  is  also 
the  case  with  the  Bawarias  of  the  Punjab,  who  go  out 
hunting  lizards  in  the  rains  and  may  be  seen  returning 
with  baskets  full  of  live  lizards,  which  exist  for  days  without 
food  and  are  killed  and  eaten  fresh  by  degrees.  Their 
metnod  of  hunting  the  lizard  is  described  by  Mr.  Wilson 
as  follows  :  ^  "  The  lizard  lives  on  grass,  cannot  bite  severely, 
and  is  sluggish  in  his  movements,  so  that  he  is  easily  caught. 
He  digs  a  hole  for  himself  of  no  great  depth,  and  the 
easiest  way  to  take  him  is  to  look  out  for  the  scarcely 
perceptible  airhole  and  dig  him  out  ;  but  there  are  various 
ways  of  saving  oneself  this  trouble.  One,  which  I  have 
seen,  takes  advantage  of  a  habit  the  lizard  has  in  cold 
weather  (when  he  never  comes  out  of  his  hole)  of  coming 
to  the  mouth  for  air  and  warmth.  The  Chuhra  or  other 
sportsman  puts  off  his  shoes  and  steals  along  the  prairie 
till  he  sees  signs  of  a  lizard's  hole.  This  he  approaches  on 
tiptoe,  raising  over  his  head  with  both  hands  a  mallet  with 
a  round  sharp  point,  and  fixing  his  eyes  intently  upon  the 
hole.  When  close  enough  he  brings  down  his  mallet  with 
all  his  might  on  the  ground  just  behind  the  mouth  of 
the  hole,  and  is  often  successful  in  breaking  the  lizard's 
back  before  he  awakes  to  a  sense  of  his  danger.  Another 
plan,  which  I  have  not  seen,  is  to  tie  a  wisp  of  grass 
to  a  long  stick  and  move  it  over  the  hole  so  as  to  make 
a  rustling  noise.  The  lizard  within  thinks,  *  Oh  here's  a 
snake  !  I  may  as  well  give  in,'  and  comes  to  the  mouth  of 
the  hole,  putting  out  his  tail  first  so  that  he  may  not  see  his 
executioner.  The  sportsman  seizes  his  tail  and  snatches  him 
out  before  he  has  time  to  learn  his  mistake."  This  common 
fondness  for  lizards  is  a  point  in  favour  of  a  connection 
between  the  Gujarat  Vaghris  and  the  Punjab  Bawarias. 

In  Sirsa  the  great  mass  of  the  Bawarias  are  not  given  to 

^   Sirsa  Settlement  Report. 

II         SOCIAL  O USE RVA NCES—CRIM 1 NA I .  I'NACl'lCliS      67 

crime,  and  in  Gujarat  also  they  do  not  appear  to  have  s[)ccial  )'>.  Suti.ii 
criminal  tendencies.  It  is  a  curious  point,  however,  that  ''^^^l^' 
Mr.  Bhimbhai  Kirparam  emphasises  the  chastity  of  the 
women  of  the  Gujarat  Vagjhris.^  "  When  a  family  returns 
home  after  a  money-making  tour  to  Bombay  or  some  other 
city,  the  women  are  taken  before  Vihat  (Devi),  and  with  the 
women  is  brought  a  buffalo  or  a  sheep  that  is  tethered  in 
front  of  Vihat's  shrine.  They  must  confess  all,  even  their 
slightest  shortcomings,  such  as  the  following  :  '  Two  weeks 
ago,  when  begging  in  Parsi  Bazar-street,  a  drunken  sailor 
caught  me  by  the  hand.  Another  day  a  Miyan  or  Musalmiin 
ogled  me,  and  forgive  me,  Devi,  my  looks  encouraged  him.' 
If  Devi  is  satisfied  the  sheep  or  buffalo  shivers,  and  is  then 
sacrificed  and  provides  a  feast  for  the  caste.  " ""  On  the  other 
hand,  Mr.  Crooke  states^  that  in  northern  India,  "The 
standard  of  morality  is  very  low  because  in  Muzaffarnagar 
it  is  extremely  rare  for  a  Bawaria  woman  to  live  with  her 
husband.  Almost  invariably  she  lives  with  another  man  : 
but  the  official  husband  is  responsible  for  the  children." 
The  great  difference  in  the  standard  of  morality  is  certainly 

In  Gujarat"*  the  Vaghris  have  gurus  or  religious  pre- 
ceptors of  their  own.  These  men  take  an  eight-anna  silver 
piece  and  whisper  in  the  ear  of  their  disciples  "  Be  immortal." 
.  .  .  "The  Bhuvas  or  priest- mediums  play  an  important 
part  in  many  Vaghri  ceremonies.  A  Bhuva  is  a  male  child 
born  after  the  mother  has  made  a  vow  to  the  goddess  Vihat 
or  Devi  that  if  a  son  be  granted  to  her  she  will  devote  him 
to  the  service  of  the  goddess.  No  Bhuva  may  cut  or  shave 
his  hair  on  pain  of  a  fine  of  ten  rupees,  and  no  Bhuva  may 
eat  carrion  or  food  cooked  by  a  Muhammadan." 

The  criminal    Bagris   still    usually   travel    about   in    the  17-  Crim- 
disguise   of  Gosains   and  Bairagis,  and  are  very  difficult  of  practices, 
detection  except  to  real  religious  mendicants.      Their  house- 
breaking  implement  or  jemmy   is   known   as   Gjdn,  but  in 
speaking  of  it  they  always  add  Das,  so  that  it  sounds  like 

1  It  would  appear  that  the  Gujarat  ^  Ajj-,  Bawaria,  quoting  from  North 
Vaghris   are   a  distinct  class  from  the  Indian  Notes  and  Queries,  i.  5 1 . 
criminal  section  of  the  tribe. 

2  Bombay   Gazetteer,    Gujarat  Hin-  •*  Bombay      Gazetteer,     Hindus     of 
dtis,  p.  514.  Gujarat,  p.  574. 

68  BADHAK  part 

the  name  of  a  Bairagi.^  They  are  usually  very  much  afraid 
of  the  gydn  being  discovered  on  their  persons,  and  are  careful 
to  bury  it  in  the  ground  at  each  halting-place,  while  on  the 
march  it  may  be  concealed  in  a  pack-saddle.  The  means  of 
identifying  them,  Mr.  Kennedy  remarks,'^  is  by  their  family 
dco  or  god,  which  they  carry  about  when  wandering  with 
their  families.  It  consists  of  a  brass  or  copper  box  contain- 
ing grains  of  wheat  and  the  seeds  of  a  creeper,  both  soaked 
in  ghi  (melted  butter).  The  box  with  a  peacock's  feather 
and  a  bell  is  wrapped  in  two  white  and  then  in  two  red 
cloths,  one  of  the  white  cloths  having  the  print  of  a  man's 
hand  dipped  in  goat's  blood  upon  it.  The  grains  of  wheat 
are  used  for  taking  the  omens,  a  few  being  thrown  up  at  sun- 
down and  counted  afterwards  to  see  whether  they  are  odd 
or  even.  When  even,  two  grains  are  placed  on  the  right 
hand  of  the  omen -taker,  and  if  this  occurs  three  times 
running  the  auspices  are  considered  to  be  favourable.^ 
Mr.  Gayer  ^  notes  that  the  Badhaks  have  usually  from  one  to 
three  brands  from  a  hot  iron  on  the  inside  of  their  left  wrist. 
Those  of  them  who  are  hunters  brand  the  muscles  of  the 
left  wrist  in  order  to  steady  the  hand  when  firing  their 
matchlocks.  The  customs  of  wearing  a  peculiar  necklace  of 
small  wooden  beads  and  a  kind  of  gold  pin  fixed  to  the  front 
teeth,  which  Mr.  Crooke  ^  records  as  having  been  prevalent 
some  years  ago,  have  apparently  been  since  abandoned,  as 
they  are  not  mentioned  in  more  recent  accounts.  The 
Dehliwal  and  Malpura  Baorias  have,  Mr.  Kennedy  states,^ 
an  interesting  system  of  signs,  which  they  mark  on  the 
walls  of  buildings  at  important  corners,  bridges  and  cross- 
roads and  on  the  ground  by  the  roadside  with  a  stick,  if  no 
building  is  handy.  The  commonest  is  a  loop,  the  straight 
line  indicating  the  direction  a  gang  or  individual  has 
taken  : 


'   Gunlhorpe's  Criminal  Tribes.  ■*   C.  P.  Police  Lccliircs,  art.  Badhak. 

'^   Criminal  Classes  in   ike  Bombay  ^    ^   ^    -,^- 

n       J                                                        J'  0  ^^[_  hawaria,  i)aia.   12. 

Presidency,  p.  151.  ' 

^  Gunthorpe's  Criminal  Tribes,  art.  "  Criminal  Classes   in  the   Bombay 

Badhak.  Presidency,  p.   179. 

II  HA  I  IN  A  69 

Tlic  addition  of  a  number  of  vertical  strokes  inside  the  loop 
sii^nifics  the  luiinber  of  males  in  a  gang.  If  these  strokes 
are  enclosed  by  a  circle  it  means  that  the  gang  is  encamped 
in  the  vicinity  ;  while  a  square  inside  a  circle  and  line  as 
below  means  that  property  has  been  secured  by  friends  who 


have  left  in  the  direction  pointed  by  the  line.  It  is  said  that 
Baorias  will  follow  one  another  up  for  fifty  or  even  a  hundred 
miles  by  means  of  these  hieroglyphics.  The  signs  are  bold 
marks,  sometimes  even  a  foot  or  more  in  length,  and  are 
made  where  they  will  at  once  catch  the  eye.  When  the 
Murwari  Baorias  desire  to  indicate  to  others  of  their  caste, 
who  may  follow  in  their  footsteps,  the  route  taken,  a  member 
of  the  gang,  usually  a  woman,  trails  a  stick  in  the  dust 
as  she  walks  along,  leaving  a  spiral  track  on  the  ground. 
Another  method  of  indicating  the  route  taken  is  to  place 
leaves  under  stones  at  intervals  along  the  road.^  The  form 
of  crime  most  in  favour  among  the  ordinary  Baoris  is  house- 
breaking by  night.  Their  common  practice  is  to  make  a  hole 
in  the  wall  beside  the  door  through  which  the  hand  passes 
to  raise  the  latch  ;  and  only  occasionally  they  dig  a  hole  in 
the  base  of  the  wall  to  admit  of  the  passage  of  a  man, 
while  another  favoured  alternative  is  to  break  in  through  a 
barred  window,  the  bars  being  quickly  and  forcibly  bent  and 
drawn  out.^  One  class  of  Marwari  Bagris  are  also  expert 

Bahna,   Pinjara,   Dhunia.^ — The  occupational   caste  of  i.  Nomen- 
cotton-cleaners.      The  Bahnas  numbered  48,000  persons   in  |^,-,^eJ^^^i^" 
the    Central    Provinces    and    Berar    in     191 1.       The    large  stmciure. 
increase  in  the  number  of  ginning-factories  has  ruined  the 
Bahna's    trade   of  cleaning   hand-ginned    cotton,  and    as   no 
distinction    attaches    to    the    name  of   Bahna    it    is   possible 
that   members  of  the  caste  who  have  taken   to   other  occu- 
pations   may  have    abandoned    it    and    returned    themselves 

1   Kennedy,  loc.  cit.  p.  208.  paper  by  Munshi   Kanhya  Lai   of  the 

'^  Kennedy,  loc.  cit.  p.   185.  Gazetteer  office. 

■^  This  article  is  partly  based  on  a 


simply  as  Muhammadans,  The  three  names  Bahna,  Pinjara, 
Dhunia  appear  to  be  used  indifferently  for  the  caste  in 
this  Province,  though  in  other  parts  of  India  they  are  dis- 
tinguished. Pinjara  is  derived  from  the  word  pinjan  used 
for  a  cotton-bow,  and  Dhunia  is  from  dJnmna,  to  card  cotton. 
The  caste  is  also  known  as  Dhunak  Pathani.  Though 
professing  the  Muhammadan  religion,  they  still  have  many 
Hindu  customs  and  ceremonies,  and  in  the  matter  of  in- 
heritance our  courts  have  held  that  they  are  subject  to 
Hindu  and  not  Muhammadan  law.^  In  Raipur  a  girl 
receives  half  the  share  of  a  boy  in  the  division  of  inherited 
property.  The  caste  appears  to  be  a  mixed  occupational 
group,  and  is  split  into  many  territorial  subcastes  named 
after  the  different  parts  of  the  country  from  which  its 
members  have  come,  as  Badharia  from  Badhas  in  Mirzapur, 
Sarsutia  from  the  Saraswati  river,  Berari  of  Berar,  Dakhni 
from  the  Deccan,  Telangi  from  Madras,  Pardeshi  from 
northern  India,  and  so  on.  Two  groups  are  occupational, 
the  Newaris  of  Saugor,  who  make  the  thick  newdr  tape 
used  for  the  webbing  of  beds,  and  the  Kanderas,  who  make 
fireworks  and  generally  constitute  a  separate  caste.  There 
is  considerable  ground  for  supposing  that  the  Bahnas  are 
mainly  derived  from  the  caste  of  Telis  or  oil-pressers.  In 
the  Punjab  Sir  D.  Ibbetson  says  ^  that  the  Penja  or  cotton- 
scutcher  is  an  occupational  name  applied  to  Telis  who 
follow  this  profession  ;  and  that  the  Penja,  Kasai  and  Teli 
are  all  of  the  same  caste.  Similarly  in  Nasik  the  Telis 
and  Pinjaras  are  said  to  form  one  community,  under  the 
government  of  a  single  panchayat.  In  cases  of  dispute  or 
misconduct  the  usual  penalty  is  temporary  excommunica- 
tion, which  is  known  as  the  stopping  of  food  and  water.^ 
The  Telis  are  an  enterprising  community  of  very  low  status, 
and  would  therefore  be  naturally  inclined  to  take  to  other 
occupations  ;  many  of  them  are  shopkeepers,  cultivators 
and  landholders,  and  it  is  quite  probable  that  in  past 
times  they  took  up  the  Bahna's  profession  and  changed 
their  religion  with  the  hope  of  improving  their  social  status. 

'   Sir    \'>.    Robertson's    C.P.    Census       paras.  646,  647. 
/Report  (1 89 1),  p.  203.  ^  Ni'isik  Gazetteer,  pp.  84,  85. 

'^  Punjab     Census     Rep07-l    (1881), 


The  TcHs  are  generally  considered  to  be  quarrelsome  and 
talkative,  and  the  Bahnas  or  Dhunias  have  the  same 
characteristics.  If  one  man  abusing  another  lapses  into 
Billingsgate,  the  other  will  say  to  him,  '  Hainko  JuldJia 
Dhunia  neJi  Jdno,'  or  '  Don't  talk  to  me  as  if  I  u^as  a 
Juliiha  or  a  Dhunia.' 

Some  Bahnas  have  exogamous  sections  with  Hindu  2.  Mar- 
names,  while  others  are  without  these,  and  simply  regulate  '^'^•^^' 
their  marriages  by  rules  of  relationship.  They  have  the 
primitive  Hindu  custom  of  allowing  a  sister's  son  to  marry 
a  brother's  daughter,  but  not  vice  versa.  A  man  cannot 
marry  his  wife's  younger  sister  during  her  lifetime,  nor  her 
elder  sister  at  any  time.  Children  of  the  same  foster- 
mother  are  also  not  allowed  to  marry.  Their  marriages 
are  performed  by  a  Kazi  with  an  imitation  of  the  Nikah  rite. 
The  bridegroom's  party  sit  under  the  marriage-shed,  and  the 
bride  with  the  women  of  her  party  inside  the  house.  The 
Kazi  selects  two  men,  one  from  the  bride's  party,  who  is 
known  as  the  Nikahi  Bap  or  '  Marriage  Father,'  and  the 
other  from  the  bridegroom's,  who  is  called  the  Gowah 
or  '  Witness.'  These  two  men  go  to  the  bride  and  ask 
her  whether  she  accepts  the  bridegroom,  whose  name  is 
stated,  for  her  husband.  She  answers  in  the  affirmative, 
and  mentions  the  amount  of  the  dowry  which  she  is  to 
receive.  The  bridegroom,  who  has  hitherto  had  a  veil 
{imck/ma)  over  his  face,  now  takes  it  off,  and  the  men  go 
to  him  and  ask  him  whether  he  accepts  the  bride.  He 
replies  that  he  does,  and  agrees  to  pay  the  dowry  demanded 
by  her.  The  Kazi  reads  some  texts  and  the  guests  are 
given  a  meal  of  rice  and  sugar.  Many  of  the  preliminaries 
to  a  Hindu  marriage  are  performed  by  the  more  backward 
members  of  the  caste,  and  until  recently  they  erected  a 
sacred  post  in  the  marriage -shed,  but  now  they  merely 
hang  the  green  branch  of  a  mango  tree  to  the  roof  The 
minimum  amount  of  the  vie/iar  or  dowry  is  said  to  be 
Rs.  125,  but  it  is  paid  to  the  girl's  parents  as  a  bride- 
price  and  not  to  herself,  as  among  the  Muhammadans. 
A  widow  is  expected,  but  not  obliged,  to  marry  her 
deceased  husband's  younger  brother.  Divorce  is  permitted 
by  means  of  a  written  deed  known  as  '  Farkhati.' 



The  Bahnas  venerate  Muhammad,  and  also  worship  the 
tombs  of  Muhammadan  saints  or  Pirs.  A  green  sheet  or 
cloth  is  spread  over  the  tomb  and  a  lamp  is  kept  burning 
by  it,  while  offerings  of  incense  and  flowers  are  made. 
When  the  new  cotton  crop  has  been  gathered  they  lay 
some  new  cotton  by  their  bow  and  mallet  and  make  an 
offering  of  viallda  or  cakes  of  flour  and  sugar  to  it.  They 
believe  that  two  angels,  one  good  and  one  bad,  are  perched 
continually  on  the  shoulders  of  every  man  to  record  his 
good  and  evil  deeds.  And  when  an  eclipse  occurs  they 
say  that  the  sun  and  moon  have  gone  behind  a  pinnacle 
or  tower  of  the  heavens.  For  exorcising  evil  spirits  they 
write  texts  of  the  Koran  on  paper  and  burn  them  before 
the  sufferer.  The  caste  bury  the  dead  with  the  feet  point- 
ing to  the  south.  On  the  way  to  the  grave  each  one  of 
the  mourners  places  his  shoulder  under  the  bier  for  a 
time,  partaking  of  the  impurity  communicated  by  it. 
Incense  is  burnt  daily  in  the  name  of  a  deceased  person 
for  forty  days  after  his  death,  with  the  object  probably 
of  preventing  his  ghost  from  returning  to  haunt  the  house. 
Muhammadan  beggars  are  fed  on  the  tenth  day.  Similarly, 
after  the  birth  of  a  child  a  woman  is  unclean  for  forty 
days,  and  cannot  cook  for  her  husband  during  that  period. 
A  child's  hair  is  cut  for  the  first  time  on  the  tenth  or 
twelfth  day  after  birth,  this  being  known  as  Jhalar.  Some 
parents  leave  a  lock  of  hair  to  grow  on  the  head  in  the 
name  of  the  famous  saint  Sheikh  Farid,  thinking  that  they 
will  thus  ensure  a  long  life  for  the  child.  It  is  probably  in 
reality  a  way  of  preserving  the  Hindu  choti  or  scalp-lock. 

The  hereditary  calling  ^  of  the  Bahna  is  the  cleaning  or 
scutching  of  cotton,  which  is  done  by  subjecting  it  to  the 
vibration  of  a  bow-string.  The  seed  has  been  previously 
separated  by  a  hand-gin,  but  the  ginned  cotton  still  contains 
much  dirt,  leaf-fibre  and  other  rubbish,  and  to  remove  this  is 
the  Bahna's  task.  The  bow  is  somewhat  in  the  shape  of  a 
harp,  the  wide  end  consisting  of  a  broad  piece  of  wood  over 
which  the  string  passes,  being  secured  to  a  straight  wooden 
bar  at  the  back.  At  the  narrow  end  the  bar  and  string 
arc    fixed    to    an    iron    ring.       The    string    is    made    of    the 

'    Cr<Joke's  lyibes  and  Castes,  art.  Bahna. 

II  occur  ATION  73 

sinew  of  some  animal,  and  this  renders  the  implement 
objectionable  to  Hindus,  and  may  account  for  the  liahnas 
being  Muhammadans.  The  club  or  mallet  is  a  wooden 
implement  shaped  like  a  dumb-bell.  The  bow  is  suspended 
from  the  roof  so  as  to  hang  just  over  the  pile  of  loose  cotton  ; 
and  the  worker  twangs  the  string  with  the  mallet  and  then 
draws  the  mallet  across  the  string,  each  three  or  four  times. 
The  string  strikes  a  small  portion  of  the  cotton,  the  fibre 
of  which  is  scattered  by  the  impact  and  thrown  off  in  a 
uniform  condition  of  soft  fluff,  all  dirt  being  at  the  same 
time  removed.  This  is  the  operation  technically  known  as 
teasing.  Buchanan  remarked  that  women  frequently  did  the 
work  themselves  at  home,  using  a  smaller  kind  of  bow  called 
dlmnkara.  The  clean  cotton  is  made  up  into  balls,  some  of 
which  are  passed  on  to  the  spinner,  while  others  are  used  for 
the  filling  of  quilts  and  the  padded  coats  worn  in  the  cold 
weather.  The  ingenious  though  rather  clumsy  method  of  the 
Bahna  has  been  superseded  by  the  ginning-factory,  and  little 
or  no  cotton  destined  for  the  spindle  is  now  cleaned  by  him. 
The  caste  have  been  forced  to  take  to  cultivation  or  field 
labour,  while  many  have  become  cartmen  and  others  are 
brokers,  peons  or  constables.  Nearly  every  house  still  has  its 
pinjajt  or  bow,  but  only  a  desultory  use  is  made  of  this  during 
the  winter  months.  As  it  is  principally  used  by  a  Muham- 
madan  caste  it  seems  a  possible  hypothesis  that  the  cotton-bow 
was  introduced  into  India  by  invaders  of  that  religion.  The 
name  of  the  bow,  pinj'an,  is,  however,  a  Sanskrit  derivative, 
and  this  is  against  the  above  theory.  It  has  already  been 
seen  that  the  fact  of  animal  sinew  being  used  for  the  string 
would  make  it  objectionable  to  Hindus.  The  Bahnas 
are  subjected  to  considerable  ridicule  on  account  of  their 
curious  mixture  of  Hindu  and  Muhammadan  ceremonies, 
amounting  in  some  respects  practically  to  a  caricature  of 
the  rites  of  Islam  ;  and  further,  they  share  with  the 
weaver  class  the  contempt  shown  to  those  who  follow  a 
calling  considered  more  suitable  for  women  than  men.  It  is 
related  that  when  the  Mughal  general  Asaf  Khan  first  made 
an  expedition  into  the  north  of  the  Central  Provinces  he 
found  the  famous  Gond- Rajput  queen  Durgavati  of  the 
Garha-Mandla  dynasty  governing  with  success   a   large  and 

74  BAHNA  part 

prosperous  state  in  this  locality.  He  thought  a  country- 
ruled  by  a  woman  should  fall  an  easy  prey  to  the  Muham- 
madan  arms,  and  to  show  his  contempt  for  her  power  he 
sent  her  a  golden  spindle.  The  queen  retorted  by  a  present 
of  a  gold  cotton-cleaner's  bow,  and  this  so  enraged  the  Mughal 
that  he  proceeded  to  attack  the  Gond  kingdom.  The  story 
indicates  that  cotton-carding  is  considered  a  Muhammadan 
profession,  and  also  that  it  is  held  in  contempt. 

Various  sayings   show   that   the  Bahna  is  not  considered 
a  proper  Muhammadan,  as 

Turuk  to  Turuk 
Aiir  BaJina  Tm'iik, 

or  '  A  Muhammadan  (Turk)  is  a  Muhammadan  and  the 
Bahna  is  also  a  Muhammadan  '  ;   and  again — 

Achera^  Kachera,  Pinjdra, 
AIuham7nad  se  dfir,  Din  se  niyura^ 

or  '  The  Kachera  and  Pinjara  are  lost  to  Muhammad  and 
far  from  the  faith  '  ;   and  again — 

Adho  Hindu  ad/io  Musabndn 
Tink/ton  kahcn  DJiiinak  Pat/iiln, 

or  '  Half  a  Hindu  and  half  a  Muhammadan,  that  is  he  who 
is  a  Dhunak  Pathan.'  They  have  a  grotesque  imitation  of 
the  Muhammadan  rite  of  halill,  or  causing  an  animal's  blood 
to  flow  on  to  the  ground  with  the  repetition  of  the  kalma  or 
invocation  ;  thus  it  is  said  that  when  a  Bahna  is  about  to 
kill  a  fowl  he  addresses  it  somewhat  as  follows  : 

Kdhe  karkarat  hai  ? 

KdJie  barbardt  hai  ? 

Kdhe  jai  jai  log07t  ka  duna  khdt  hdi? 

Tor  kidniat  inor  nidviat, 

Bismilldh  hai  iuch, 

or  "  Why  do  you  cackle  ?  Why  do  you  crow  ?  Why  do 
you  eat  other  people's  grain  ?  Your  death  is  my  feast ;  I 
touch  you  in  the  name  of  God."  And  saying  this  he  puts 
a  knife  to  the  fowl's  throat.      The  vernacular  verse  is  a  good 

*   The  word  Achera  is  merely  a  jingle  put   in  to  make  the  rhyme  complete. 
Kachera  is  a  maker  of  glass  bangles. 


imitation  of  the  cackling  of  a  fowl.  And  again,  they  slice 
off  the  top  of  an  egg  as  if  they  were  killing  an  animal  and 
repeat  the  formula,  "  White  dome,  full  of  moisture,  I  know 
not  if  there  is  a  male  or  female  within  ;  in  the  name  of  God 
I  kill  you."  A  person  whose  memory  is  not  good  enough 
to  retain  these  texts  will  take  a  knife  and  proceed  to  one 
who  knows  them.  Such  a  man  will  repeat  the  texts  over 
the  knife,  blowing  on  it  as  he  does  so,  and  the  Bahna  con- 
siders that  the  knife  has  been  sanctified  and  retains  its  virtue 
for  a  week.  Others  do  not  think  this  necessary,  but  have  a 
special  knife,  which  having  once  been  consecrated  is  always 
kept  for  killing  animals,  and  descends  as  an  heirloom  in  the 
family,  the  use  of  this  sacred  knife  being  considered  to  make 
the  repetition  of  the  kalma  unnecessary.  These  customs  are, 
however,  practised  only  by  the  ignorant  members  of  the 
caste  in  Raipur  and  Bilaspur,  and  are  unknown  in  the  more 
civilised  tracts,  where  the  Bahnas  are  rapidly  conforming 
to  ordinary  Muhammadan  usage.  Such  primitive  Bahnas 
perform  their  marriages  by  walking  round  the  sacred  post, 
keep  the  Hindu  festivals,  and  feed  Brahmans  on  the  tenth 
day  after  a  death.  They  have  a  priest  whom  they  call  their 
Kazi,  but  elect  him  themselves.  In  some  places  when  a 
Bahn-a  goes  to  the  well  to  draw  water  he  first  washes  the 
parapet  of  the  well  to  make  it  ceremonially  clean,  and  then 
draws  his  water.  This  custom  can  only  be  compared  with 
that  of  the  Raj-Gonds  who  wash  the  firewood  with  which 
they  are  about  to  cook  their  food,  in  order  to  make  it  more 
pure.  Respectable  Muhammadans  naturally  look  down  on 
the  Bahnas,  and  they  retaliate  by  refusing  to  take  food  or 
watqr  from  any  Muhammadan  who  is  not  a  Bahna.  By 
such  strictness  the  more  ignorant  think  that  they  will  enhance 
their  ceremonial  purity  and  hence  their  social  consideration  ; 
but  the  intelligent  members  of  the  caste  know  better  and 
are  glad  to  improve  themselves  by  learning  from  educated 
Muhammadans.  The  other  menial  artisan  castes  among  the 
Muhammadans  have  similar  ideas,  and  it  is  reported  that  a 
Rangrez  boy  who  took  food  in  the  house  of  one  of  the  highest 
Muhammadan  officers  of  Government  in  the  Province  was 
temporarily  put  out  of  caste.  Another  saying  about  the 
Bahnas  is — 

76  BAHNA  part  ii 

Sheik Jioji  ki  Sheikht, 

Pathdnofi  kl  farr, 
Tiirkott  ki  Tierkshdhi, 

Bahnoii  ki  bharrr  .   .   . 

or  '  Proud  as  a  Sheikh,  obstinate  as  a  Pathan,  royal  as  a 
Turk,  buzzing  like  a  Bahna.'  This  refers  to  the  noise  of 
the  cotton-cleaning  bow,  the  twang  of  which  as  it  is  struck 
by  the  club  is  like  a  quail  flying  ;  and  at  the  same  time  to 
the  Bahna's  loquacity.  Another  story  is  that  a  Bahna  was 
once  going  through  the  forest  with  his  cotton-cleaning  bow 
and  club  or  mallet,  when  a  jackal  met  him  on  the  path. 
The  jackal  was  afraid  that  the  Bahna  would  knock  him  on 
the  head,  so  he  said,  "  With  thy  bow  on  thy  shoulder  and 
thine  arrow  in  thy  hand,  whither  goest  thou,  O  King  of 
Delhi  ? "  The  Bahna  was  exceedingly  pleased  at  this  and 
replied,  '  King  of  the  forest,  eater  of  wild  plums,  only  the 
great  can  recognise  the  great.'  But  when  the  jackal  had 
got  to  a  safe  distance  he  turned  round  and  shouted,  "  With 
your  cotton-bow  on  your  shoulder  and  your  club  in  your 
hand,  there  you  go,  you  sorry  Bahna."  It  is  said  also  that 
although  the  Bahnas  as  good  Muhammadans  wear  beards, 
they  do  not  cultivate  them  very  successfully,  and  many  of 
them  only  have  a  growth  of  hair  below  the  chin  and  none 
on  the  under-lip,  in  the  fashion  known  as  a  goat's  beard. 
This  kind  of  beard  is  thus  proverbially  described  as  '  Bahna 
kaisi  ddrhi'  or  *A  Bahna's  beard.'  It  may  be  repeated  in 
conclusion  that  much  of  the  ridicule  attaching  to  the  Bahnas 
arises  simply  from  the  fact  that  they  follow  what  is  considered 
a  feminine  occupation,  and  the  remainder  because  in  their 
ignorance  they  parody  the  rites  of  Islam.  It  may  seem  ill- 
natured  to  record  the  sayings  in  which  they  are  lampooned, 
but  the  l^ahnas  cannot  read  English,  and  these  have  an 
interest  as  specimens  of  popular  wit. 



1.  The  tribe  iDtd  ils  offslioois.  6.  Religion. 

2.  Tribal  lege7ids.  7.  Appearance  and  mode  of  life. 

3.  Tribal  subdivisions.  8.  Dress  and  food. 

4.  Afarriage.  9.  Occupation. 

5.  Birth  and  funeral  rites.  10.  Language. 

Baiga/ — A  primitive  Dravidian  tribe  whose  home  is  i.  The 
on  the  eastern  Satpura  hills  in  the  Mandla,  Balaghfit  and  jj^  l^^ 
Bilaspur  Districts.  The  number  of  the  Baigas  proper  was  shoots. 
only  30,000  in  191  i.  But  the  Binjhals  or  Binjhwars,  a 
fairly  numerous  caste  in  the  Chhattlsgarh  Division,  and 
especially  in  the  Sambalpur  District,  appear  to  have  been 
originally  Baigas,  though  they  have  dropped  the  original 
caste  name,  become  Hinduised,  and  now  disclaim  connection 
with  the  parent  tribe.  A  reason  for  this  may  be  found  in 
the  fact  that  Sambalpur  contains  several  Binjhwar  zamlndars, 
or  large  landowners,  whose  families  would  naturally  desire  a 
more  respectable  pedigree  than  one  giving  them  the  wild 
Baigas  of  the  Satpuras  for  their  forefathers.  And  the  evolu- 
tion 9f  the  Binjhwar  caste  is  a  similar  phenomenon  to  the 
constitution  of  the  Raj-Gonds,  the  Raj-Korkus,  and  other 
aristocratic  subdivisions  among  the  forest  tribes,  who  have 
been  admitted  to  a  respectable  position  in  the  Hindu  social 
community.  The  Binjhwars,  however,  have  been  so  success- 
ful as  to  cut  themselves  off  almost  completely  from  connec- 
tion with  the  original  tribe,  owing  to  their  adoption  of 
another  name.      But  in  Balaghat  and  Mandla  the  Binjhwar 

1  This  article  is  based  largely  on  a  Ali  Haqqani,  B.A.,  Tahsildar,  Dindori. 

monograph  by  the   Rev.  J-    Lampard,  Some  extracts   have   been   made  from 

missionary,  Baihar,  and  also  on  papers  Colonel     Ward's     Mandla    Settlement 

by   Muhammad   Hanlf  Siddlqi,   forest  Report    (1869),     and     from     Colonel 

ranger,  Bilaspur,  and  Mr.  Muhammad  Bloomfield's  Azotes  on  ike  Baigas. 



subtribe  is  still  recognised  as  tiie  most  civilised  subdivision 
of  the  Baigas.  The  Bhainas,  a  small  tribe  in  Bilaspur,  are 
probably  another  offshoot,  Kath-Bhaina  being  the  name  of 
a  subtribe  of  Baigas  in  that  District,  and  Rai-Bhaina  in 
Balaghat,  though  the  Bhainas  too  no  longer  admit  identity 
with  the  Baigas.  A  feature  common  to  all  three  branches 
is  that  they  have  forgotten  their  original  tongue,  and  now 
speak  a  more  or  less  corrupt  form  of  the  Indo- Aryan 
vernaculars  current  around  them.  Finally,  the  term  Bhumia 
or  '  Lord  of  the  soil '  is  used  sometimes  as  the  name  of  a 
separate  tribe  and  sometimes  as  a  synonym  for  Baiga. 
The  fact  is  that  in  the  Central  Provinces  ^  Bhumia  is  the 
name  of  an  office,  that  of  the  priest  of  the  village  and  local 
deities,  which  is  held  by  one  of  the  forest  tribes.  In  the 
tract  where  the  Baigas  live,  they,  as  the  most  ancient 
residents,  are  usually  the  priests  of  the  indigenous  gods  ;  but 
in  Jubbulpore  the  same  office  is  held  by  another  tribe,  the 
Bharias.  The  name  of  the  office  often  attaches  itself  to 
members  of  the  tribe,  who  consider  it  as  somewhat  more 
respectable  than  their  own,  and  it  is  therefore  generally  true 
to  say  that  the  people  known  as  Bhumias  in  Jubbulpore  are 
really  Bharias,  but  in  Mandla  and  Bilaspur  they  are  Baigas. 
In  Mandla  there  is  also  found  a  group  called  Bharia- 
Baigas.  These  are  employed  as  village  priests  by  Hindus, 
and  worship  certain  Hindu  deities  and  not  the  Gond  gods. 
They  may  perhaps  be  members  of  the  Bharia  tribe  of 
Jubbulpore,  originally  derived  from  the  Bhars,  who  have 
obtained  the  designation  of  Baiga,  owing  to  their  employ- 
ment as  village  priests.  But  they  now  consider  themselves 
a  part  of  the  Baiga  tribe  and  say  they  came  to  Mandla  from 
Rewah.  In  Mandla  the  decision  of  a  Baiga  on  a  boundary 
dispute  is  almost  always  considered  as  final,  and  this  authority 
is  of  a  kind  that  commonly  emanates  from  recognised 
priority  of  residence."  There  seems  reason  to  suppose  that 
the  Baigas  are  really  a  branch  of  the  primitive  Bhuiya  tribe 
of  Chota  Nagpur,  and  that  they  have  taken  or  been  given 
the  name  of  Baiga,  the  designation  of  a  village  priest,  on 
migration   into  the  Central   Provinces.      There  is  reason   to 

'   In  Bengal  tlie  Tihumia  or  BhumTj  ^  Colonel  Ward's  Mandla  Settlement 

are  an  iniportanl  tribe.  Report  (1868-69),  P-   'SS- 

II  fh'I/lA/.  I.I'A.I'INDS  79 

believe  tluit  the  Haiijas  were  once  dominant  in  the  Clihat- 
tist^arh  phu'n  and  the  hills  surrounding^  it  wiiich  adjoin 
Chota  Nai;[)ur,  the  home  of  the  Bhuiyas.  The  considera- 
tions in  favour  of  this  view  are  given  in  the  article  on 
Bhuiya,  to  which  reference  may  be  made. 

The  Baigas,  however,  are  not  without  some  conceit  of  2.  rribai 
themselves,  as  the  following  legend  will  show.  In  the  *^^'^"  ^' 
beginning,  they  say,  God  created  Nanga  Baiga  and  Nangi 
Baigin,  the  first  of  the  human  race,  and  asked  them  by  what 
calling  they  would  choose  to  live.  They  at  once  said  that 
they  would  make  their  living  by  felling  trees  in  the  jungle, 
and  permission  being  accorded,  have  done  so  ever  since. 
They  had  two  sons,  one  of  whom  remained  a  Baiga,  while 
the  other  became  a  Gond  and  a  tiller  of  the  soil.  The  sons 
married  their  own  two  sisters  who  were  afterwards  born,  and 
while  the  elder  couple  are  the  ancestors  of  the  Baigas, 
from  the  younger  are  descended  the  Gonds  and  all  the 
remainder  of  the  human  race.  In  another  version  of  the 
story  the  first  Baiga  cut  down  two  thousand  old  sal^  trees 
in  one  day,  and  God  told  him  to  sprinkle  a  few  grains  of 
kutki  on  the  ashes,  and  then  to  retire  and  sleep  for  some 
months,  when  on  his  return  he  would  be  able  to  reap  a 
rich  harvest  for  his  children.  In  this  manner  the  habit  of 
shifting  cultivation  is  accorded  divine  sanction.  According 
to  Binjhwar  tradition  Nanga  Baiga  and  Nangi  Baigin 
dwelt  on  the  kajli  ban  paJidr,  which  being  interpreted  is 
the  hill  of  elephants,  and  may  well  refer  to  the  ranges  of 
Mandla  and  Bilaspur.  It  is  stated  in  the  Ain-i-Akbari~ 
that  the  country  of  Garha- Mandla  abounded  in  wild 
elephants,  and  that  the  people  paid  their  tribute  in  these 
and  gold  mohurs.  In  Mandla  the  Baigas  sometimes  hang 
out  from  their  houses  a  bamboo  mat  fastened  to  a  long 
pole  to  represent  a  flag  which  they  say  once  flew  from  the 
palace  of  a  Baiga  king.  It  seems  likely  that  the  original 
home  of  the  tribe  may  have  been  the  Chhattlsgarh  plain  and 
the  hill-ranges  surrounding  it.  A  number  of  estates  in  these 
hills  are  held  by  landowners  of  tribes  which  are  offshoots 
of  the  Baigas,  as  the  Bhainas  and  Binjhwars.      The  point  is 

1  Skorea  rohnsta. 
^  Jarrett's  Ain-i-Akbari,  vol.  ii.  p.   ig6. 



further  discussed  in  the  article  on  Bhuiya.  Most  of  the 
Baigas  speak  a  corrupt  form  of  the  Chhattisgarhi  dialect. 
When  they  first  came  under  the  detailed  observation  of 
English  officers  in  the  middle  of  the  nineteenth  century,  the 
tribe  were  even  more  solitary  and  retired  than  at  present. 
Their  villages,  it  is  said,  were  only  to  be  found  in  places 
far  removed  from  all  cleared  and  cultivated  country.  No 
roads  or  well-defined  paths  connected  them  with  ordinary 
lines  of  traffic  and  more  thickly  inhabited  tracts,  but  perched 
away  in  snug  corners  in  the  hills,  and  hidden  by  convenient 
projecting  spurs  and  dense  forests  from  the  country  round, 
they  could  not  be  seen  except  when  nearly  approached, 
and  were  seldom  visited  unless  by  occasional  enterprising 
Banias  and  vendors  of  country  liquor.  Indeed,  without  a 
Baiga  for  a  guide  many  of  the  villages  could  hardly  be  dis- 
covered, for  nothing  but  occasional  notches  on  the  trees 
distineuished  the  tracks  to  them  from  those  of  the  sambhar 
and  other  wild  animals. 

The  following  seven  subdivisions  or  subtribes  are  recog- 
nised :  Binjhwar,  Bharotia,  Narotia  or  Nahar,  Raibhaina, 
Kathbhaina,  Kondwan  or  Kundi,  and  Gondwaina.  Of  these 
the  Binjhwar,  Bharotia  and  Narotia  are  the  best -known. 
The  name  of  the  Binjhwars  is  probably  derived  from  the 
Vindhyan  range,  which  in  turn  comes  from  the  Sanskrit 
vindliya,  a  hunter.  The  rule  of  exogamy  is  by  no  means 
strictly  observed,  and  in  Kawardha  it  is  said  that  these 
three  subcastes  intermarry  though  they  do  not  eat  together, 
while  in  Balaghat  the  Bharotias  and  Narotias  both  eat  together 
and  intermarry.  In  both  places  the  Binjhwars  occupy 
the  highest  position,  and  the  other  two  subtribes  will  take 
food  from  them.  The  Binjhwars  consider  themselves  as 
Hindus  and  abjure  the  consumption  of  buffalo's  and  cow's 
flesh  and  rats,  while  the  other  Baigas  will  eat  almost  any- 
thing. The  Bharotias  partially  shave  their  heads,  and  in 
Mandla  are  apparently  known  as  Mundia  or  Mudia,  or 
"  shaven."  The  Gondwainas  eat  both  cow's  flesh  and 
monkeys,  and  are  regarded  as  the  lowest  subcaste.  As 
shown  by  their  name  they  are  probably  the  offspring  of 
unions  between  Baigas  and  Gonds.  Similarly  the  Kondwans 
apparently   derive  their  name  from   the  tract  south  of  the 


Mahfinadi    which   is   tKuncd    after   tlic   Khoiid  tribe,  and  was 
formerly  owned  by  them. 

Each  sLibtribe  is  divided  into  a  number  of  exogamous 
septs,  the  names  of  which  are  identical  in  many  cases  with 
those  of  the  Gonds,  as  Markam,  Maravi,  Netam,  Tekam  and 
others.  Gond  names  are  found  most  frequently  among  the 
Gondwainas  and  Narotias,  and  these  have  adopted  from  the 
Gonds  the  prohibition  of  marriage  between  worshippers  of 
the  same  number  of  gods.  Thus  the  four  septs  above 
mentioned  worship  seven  gods  and  may  not  intermarry. 
But  they  may  marry  among  other  septs  such  as  the  Dhurua, 
Pusam,  Bania  and  Mawar  who  worship  six  gods.  The 
Baigas  do  not  appear  to  have  assimilated  the  further  division 
into  worshippers  of  five,  four,  three  and  two  gods  which 
exists  among  the  Gonds  in  some  localities,  and  the  system  is 
confined  to  the  lower  subtribes.  The  meanings  of  the  sept 
names  have  been  forgotten  and  no  instances  of  totemism  are 
known.  And  the  Binjhwars  and  Bharotias,  who  are  more 
or  less  Hinduised,  have  now  adopted  territorial  names  for 
their  septs,  as  Lapheya  from  Lapha  zamlndari,  Ghugharia 
from  Ghughri  village  in  Mandia,  and  so  on.  The  adoption 
of  Gond  names  and  septs  appears  to  indicate  that  Gonds 
were  in  former  times  freely  admitted  into  the  Baiga  tribe  ; 
and  this  continues  to  be  the  case  at  present  among  the  lower 
subtribes,  so  far  that  a  Gond  girl  marrying  a  Baiga  becomes 
a  regular  member  of  the  community.  But  the  Binjhwars 
and  Bharotias,  who  have  a  somewhat  higher  status  than  the 
others,  refuse  to  admit  Gonds,  and  are  gradually  adopting 
the  strict  rule" of  endogamy  within  the  subtribe. 

A  Baiga  must  not  take  a  wife  from  his  own  sept  or  from  4.  Mar- 
another  one  worshipping  the  same  number  of  gods.  But  he  "^^^' 
may  marry  within  his  mother's  sept,  and  in  some  localities 
the  union  of  first  cousins  is  permitted.  Marriage  is  adult 
and  the  proposal  comes  from  the  parents  of  the  bride,  but  in 
some  places  the  girl  is  allowed  to  select  a  husband  for  herself 
A  price  varying  from  five  to  twenty  rupees  is  usually  paid  to 
the  bride's  parents,  or  in  lieu  of  this  the  prospective  husband 
serves  his  father-in-law  for  a  period  of  about  two  years,  the 
marriage  being  celebrated  after  the  first  year  if  his  conduct 
is  satisfactory.      Orphan  boys  who  have  no  parents  to  arrange 

VOL.  II  G 


their  marriages  for  them  often  take  service  for  a  wife.  Three 
ceremonies  should  precede  the  marriage.  The  first,  which 
may  take  place  at  any  time  after  the  birth  of  both  children, 
consists  merely  in  the  arrangement  for  their  betrothal.  The 
second  is  only  a  ratification  of  the  first,  feasts  being  provided 
by  the  boy's  parents  on  both  occasions.  While  on  the  ap- 
proach of  the  children  to  marriageable  age  the  final  betrothal 
or  barokhi  is  held.  The  boy's  father  gives  a  large  feast  at 
the  house  of  the  girl  and  the  date  of  the  wedding  is  fixed. 
To  ascertain  whether  the  union  will  be  auspicious,  two 
grains  of  rice  are  dropped  into  a  pot  of  water,  after  various 
preliminary  solemnities  to  mark  the  importance  of  the  occa- 
sion. If  the  points  of  the  grains  meet  almost  immediately  it 
is  considered  that  the  marriage  will  be  highly  auspicious.  If 
they  do  not  meet,  a  second  pair  of  grains  are  dropped  in, 
and  should  these  meet  it  is  believed  that  the  couple  will 
quarrel  after  an  interval  of  married  life  and  that  the  wife 
will  return  to  her  father's  house.  While  if  neither  of  the  two 
first  essays  are  successful  and  a  third  pair  is  required,  the 
regrettable  conclusion  is  arrived  at  that  the  wife  will  run 
away  with  another  man  after  a  very  short  stay  with  her  hus- 
band. But  it  is  not  stated  that  the  betrothal  is  on  that 
account  annulled.  The  wedding  procession  starts  from  the 
bridegroom's  house  ^  and  is  received  by  the  bride's  father  out- 
side the  village.  It  is  considered  essential  that  he  should  go 
out  to  meet  the  bride's  party  riding  on  an  elephant.  But 
as  a  real  elephant  is  not  within  the  means  of  a  Baiga,  two 
wooden  bedsteads  are  lashed  together  and  covered  with 
blankets  with  a  black  cloth  trunk  in  front,  and  this  arrange- 
ment passes  muster  for  an  elephant.  The  elephant  makes 
pretence  to  charge  and  trample  down  the  marriage  procession, 
until  a  rupee  is  paid,  when  the  two  parties  embrace  each 
other  and  proceed  to  the  marriage-shed.  Here  the  bride  and 
bridegroom  throw  fried  rice  at  each  other  until  they  are  tired, 
and  then  walk  three  or  seven  times  round  the  marriage-post 
with  their  clothes  tied  together.  It  is  stated  by  Colonel 
Ward  that  the  couple  always  retired  to  the  forest  to  spend 

'  Colonel    Ward    gives    the    bride's       custom    formerly   existed    it   has    been 
house  as  among  the  Gonds.      But  in-       abandoned, 
(juiry    in    Mandla    shows    that    if    tliis 


the  wedding  night,  but  this  custom  has  now  been  abandoned. 
The  expenditure  on  a  marriage  varies  between  ten  and  fifty 
rupees,  of  which  only  about  five  rupees  fall  on  the  bride's 
l)arents.  The  remarriage  of  widows  is  permitted,  and  the 
widow  is  expected,  though  not  obliged,  to  wed  her  late  hus- 
band's younger  brother,  while  if  she  takes  another  husband 
he  must  pay  her  brother-in-law  the  sum  of  five  rupees. 
The  ceremony  consists  merely  of  the  presentation  of  bangles 
and  new  clothes  by  the  suitor,  in  token  of  her  acceptance  of 
which  the  widow  pours  some  tepid  water  stained  with  turmeric 
over  his  head.  Divorce  may  be  effected  by  the  husband  and 
wife  breaking  a  straw  in  the  presence  of  the  caste  panchdyat 
or  committee.  If  the  woman  remains  in  the  same  village 
and  does  not  marry  again,  the  husband  is  responsible  for  her 
maintenance  and  that  of  her  children,  while  a  divorced  woman 
may  not  remarry  without  the  sanction  of  the  pancJiayat  so 
long  as  her  husband  is  alive  and  remains  single.  Polygamy 
is  permitted. 

A  woman  is  unclean  for  a  month  after  childbirth,  though  5.  Birth 
the  Binjhwars  restrict  the  period  to  eight  days.  At  the 
ceremony  of  purification  a  feast  is  given  and  the  child  is 
named,  often  after  the  month  or  day  of  its  birth,  as 
Chaitu,  Phagu,  Saoni,  and  so  on,  from  the  months  of 
Chait,  Phagun  and  Shrawan.  Children  who  appear  to  be 
physically  defective  are  given  names  accordingly,  such  as 
Langra  (lame),  or  Bahira  (deaf).  The  dead  are  usually 
buried,  the  bodies  of  old  persons  being  burnt  as  a  special 
honour  and  to  save  them  from  the  risk  of  being  devoured  by 
wild  animals.  Bodies  are  laid  naked  in  the  grave  with  the 
head  pointing  to  the  south.  In  the  grave  of  a  man  of  im- 
portance two  or  three  rupees  and  some  tobacco  are  placed. 
In  some  places  a  rupee  is  thrust  into  the  mouth  of  the  dying 
man,  and  if  his  body  is  burnt,  the  coin  is  recovered  from  the 
pyre  by  his  daughter  or  sister,  who  wears  it  as  an  amulet. 
Over  the  grave  a  platform  is  made  on  which  a  stone  is 
erected.  This  is  called  the  Bhiri  of  the  deceased  and  is 
worshipped  by  his  relatives  in  time  of  trouble.  If  one  of 
the  family  has  to  be  buried  elsewhere,  the  relatives  go  to  the 
BhIri  of  the  great  dead  and  consign  his  spirit  to  be  kept  in 
their  company.      At  a  funeral   the  mourners  take  one  black 

and  funeral 


and  one  white  fowl  to  a  stream  and  kill  and  eat  them  there, 
setting  aside  a  portion  for  the  dead  man.  Mourning  is 
observed  for  a  period  of  from  two  to  nine  days,  and  during 
this  time  labour  and  even  household  work  are  stopped,  food 
being  supplied  by  the  friends  of  the  family.  When  a  man 
is  killed  by  a  tiger  the  Baiga  priest  goes  to  the  spot  and 
there  makes  a  small  cone  out  of  the  blood-stained  earth. 
This  must  represent  a  man,  either  the  dead  man  or  one  of 
his  living  relatives.  His  companions  having  retired  a  few 
paces,  the  priest  goes  on  his  hands  and  knees  and  performs 
a  series  of  antics  which  are  supposed  to  represent  the  tiger 
in  the  act  of  destroying  the  man,  at  the  same  time  seizing 
the  lump  of  blood-stained  earth  in  his  teeth.  One  of  the 
party  then  runs  up  and  taps  him  on  the  back  with  a  small 
stick.  This  perhaps  means  that  the  tiger  is  killed  or  other- 
wise rendered  harmless  ;  and  the  Baiga  immediately  lets  the 
mud  cone  fall  into  the  hands  of  one  of  the  party.  It  is  then 
placed  in  an  ant-hill  and  a  pig  is  sacrificed  over  it.  The 
next  day  a  small  chicken  is  taken  to  the  place,  and  after  a 
mark  supposed  to  be  the  dead  man's  name  is  made  on  its 
head  with  red  ochre,  it  is  thrown  back  into  the  forest,  the 
priest  exclaiming,  '  Take  this  and  go  home.'  The  ceremony 
is  supposed  to  lay  the  dead  man's  spirit  and  at  the  same 
time  to  prevent  the  tiger  from  doing  any  further  damage. 
The  Baigas  believe  that  the  ghost  of  the  victim,  if  not 
charmed  to  rest,  resides  on  the  head  of  the  tiger  and  incites 
him  to  further  deeds  of  blood,  rendering  him  also  secure  from 
harm  by  his  preternatural  watchfulness.^ 

They  also  think  that  they  can  shut  up  the  tiger's  ddr  or 
jaws,  so  that  he  cannot  bite  them,  by  driving  a  nail  into  a 
tree.  The  forest  track  from  Kanha  to  Kisli  in  the  Banjar 
forest  reserve  of  Mandla  was  formerly  a  haunt  of  man- 
eating  tigers,  to  whom  a  number  of  the  wood-cutters  and 
Baiga  coolies,  clearing  the  jungle  paths,  fell  victims  every 
year.  In  a  large  tree,  at  a  dangerous  point  in  the  track, 
there  could  recently  be  seen  a  nail,  driven  into  the  trunk  by 
a  Baiga  priest,  at  some  height  from  the  ground.  It  was 
said  that  this  nail  shut  the  mouth  of  a  famous  man-eating 
tiger  of  the  locality   and   prevented   him   from  killing  any 

'    VorayiWs  Hig/iiands  of  Central  India,  p.  377. 

II  85 

more  victims.  As  evidence  of  the  truth  (;f  the  story  there 
were  shown  on  the  trunk  the  marks  of  the  timer's  chiws, 
where  he  had  been  jumpinfT  up  the  tree  in  the  effort  to  pull 
the  nail  out  of  the  trunk  and  get  his  man-eating  powers 

Although  the  IMnjhwar  subcaste  now  profess  Hinduism,  6.  Rcii^'ion 
the  religion  of  the  Baigas  is  purely  animistic.  Their  prin- 
cipal deity  is  Bura  Deo/  who  is  supposed  to  reside  in  a  sdj 
tree  {Teriiiinalia  touientosci)  ;  he  is  worshipped  in  the  month 
of  Jeth  (May),  when  goats,  fowls,  cocoanuts,  and  the  liquor 
of  the  new  mahua  crop  are  offered  to  him.  Thakur  Deo 
is  the  god  of  the  village  land  and  boundaries,  and  is  propi- 
tiated with  a  white  goat.  The  Baigas  who  plough  the  fields 
have  a  ceremony  called  Bidri,  which  is  performed  before  the 
breaking  of  the  rains.  A  handful  of  each  kind  of  grain  sown 
is  given  by  each  cultivator  to  the  priest,  who  mixes  the 
grains  together  and  sows  a  little  beneath  the  tree  where 
Thakur  Deo  lives.  After  this  he  returns  a  little  to  each 
cultivator,  and  he  sows  it  in  the  centre  of  the  land  on  which 
crops  are  to  be  grown,  while  the  priest  keeps  the  remainder. 
This  ceremony  is  believed  to  secure  the  success  of  the  har- 
vest. Dulha  Deo  is  the  god  who  averts  disease  and  accident, 
and  the  offering  made  to  him  should  consist  of  a  fowl  or  goat 
of  reddish  colour.  Bhimsen  is  the  deity  of  rainfall,  and 
Dharti  Mata  or  Mother  Earth  is  considered  to  be  the  wife 
of  Thakur  Deo,  and  must  also  be  propitiated  for  the  success 
of  the  crops.  The  grain  itself  is  worshipped  at  the  thresh- 
ing floor  by  sprinkling  water  and  liquor  on  to  it.  Certain 
Hindu  deities  are  also  worshipped  by  the  Baigas,  but  not  in 
orthodox  fashion.  Thus  it  would  be  sacrilege  on  the  part 
of  a  Hindu  to  offer  animal  sacrifices  to  Narayan  Deo,  the 
sun-god,  but  the  Baigas  devote  to  him  a  special  oblation  of 
the  most  unclean  animal,  the  pig.  The  animal  to  be  sacri- 
ficed is  allowed  to  wander  loose  for  two  or  three  years,  and 
is  then  killed  in  a  most  cruel  manner.  It  is  laid  across  the 
threshold  of  a  doorway  on  its  back,  and  across  its  stomach 
is  placed  a  stout  plank  of  sdj-wooA.  Half  a  dozen  men  sit 
or  stand  on  the  ends  of  this,  and  the  fore  and  hind  feet  of 
the  pig  are  pulled  backwards  and  forwards  alternately  over 

'  The  Great  God.      The  Gonds  also  worship  Bura  Deo,  resident  in  a  sdj  tree.' 


the  plank  until  it  is  crushed  to  death,  while  all  the  men  sing 
or  shout  a  sacrificial  hymn.  The  head  and  feet  are  cut 
off  and  offered  to  the  deity,  and  the  body  is  eaten.  The 
forests  are  believed  to  be  haunted  by  spirits,  and  in  certain 
localities  pats  or  shrines  are  erected  in  their  honour,  and 
occasional  offerings  are  made  to  them.  The  spirits  of  married 
persons  are  supposed  to  live  in  streams,  while  trees  afford  a 
shelter  to  the  souls  of  the  unmarried,  who  become  bJiuts  or 
malignant  spirits  after  death.  Nag  Deo  or  the  cobra  is 
supposed  to  live  in  an  ant-hill,  and  offerings  are  made  to  him 
there.  Demoniacal  possession  is  an  article  of  faith,  and  a 
popular  remedy  is  to  burn  human  hair  mixed  with  chillies 
and  pig's  dung  near  the  person  possessed,  as  the  horrible 
smell  thus  produced  will  drive  away  the  spirit.  Many  and 
weird,  Mr.  Low  writes,  are  the  simples  which  the  Baiga's 
travelling  scrip  contains.  Among  these  a  dried  bat  has  the 
chief  place  ;  this  the  Baiga  says  he  uses  to  charm  his  nets 
with,  that  the  prey  may  catch  in  them  as  the  bat's  claws 
catch  in  w^hatever  it  touches.  As  an  instance  of  the  Baiga's 
pantheism  it  may  be  mentioned  that  on  one  occasion  when  a 
train  of  the  new  Satpura  railway  ^  had  pulled  up  at  a  way- 
side forest  station,  a  Baiga  was  found  offering  a  sacrifice 
to  the  engine.  Like  other  superstitious  people  they  are 
great  believers  in  omens.  A  single  crow  bathing  in  a  stream 
is  a  sign  of  death.  A  cock  which  crows  in  the  night  should 
be  instantly  killed  and  thrown  into  the  darkness,  a  custom 
which  some  would  be  glad  to  see  introduced  into  much  more 
civilised  centres.  The  woodpecker  and  owl  are  birds  of  bad 
omen.  The  Baigas  do  not  appear  to  have  anj-  idea  of  a  fresh 
birth,  and  one  of  their  marriage  songs  says,  "  O  girl,  take 
your  pleasure  in  going  round  the  marriage-post  once  and  for 
all,  for  there  is  no  second  birth."  The  Baigas  are  generally 
the  priests  of  the  Gonds,  probably  because  being  earlier  resi- 
dents of  the  country  they  are  considered  to  have  a  more 
intimate  acquaintance  with  the  local  deities.  They  have 
a  wide  knowledge  of  the  medicinal  properties  of  jungle 
roots  and  herbs,  and  are  often  successful  in  effecting  cures 
when  the  regular  native  doctors  have  failed.  Their  village 
priests  have  consequently  a  considerable  reputation  as  skilled 

'   Opened  in  1905. 


sorcerers  and  persons  conversant  with  the  unseen  world.  A 
case  is  known  of  a  Brahman  transferred  to  a  jungle  station, 
who  immediately  after  his  arrival  called  in  a  Baiga  priest 
and  asked  what  forest  gods  he  should  worship,  and  what 
other  steps  he  should  take  to  keep  well  and  escape  calamity. 
Colonel  Ward  states  that  in  his  time  Baigas  were  commonly 
called  in  to  give  aid  when  a  town  or  village  was  attacked  by 
cholera,  and  further  that  he  had  seen  the  greatest  benefit  to 
result  from  their  visit.  For  the  people  had  so  much  con- 
fidence in  their  powers  and  ceremonies  that  they  lost  half 
their  fright  at  once,  and  were  consequently  not  so  much  pre- 
disposed to  an  attack  of  the  disease.  On  such  an  occasion 
the  Baiga  priest  goes  round  the  village  and  pulls  out  a  little 
straw  from  each  house-roof,  afterwards  burning  the  whole 
before  the  shrine  of  Khermata,  the  goddess  of  the  village,  to 
whom  he  also  offers  a  chicken  for  each  homestead.  If  this 
remedy  fails  goats  are  substituted  for  chickens,  and  lastly,  as 
a  forlorn  hope,  pigs  are  tried,  and,  as  a  rule,  do  not  fail, 
because  by  this  time  the  disease  may  be  expected  to  have 
worked  itself  out.  It  is  suggested  that  the  chicken  represents 
a  human  victim  from  each  house,  while  the  straw  stands  for 
the  house  itself,  and  the  offering  has  the  common  idea  of  a 
substituted  victim. 

In  stature  the  Baigas  are  a  little  taller  than  most  other  7.  Appear- 
tribes,  and  though  they  have  a  tendency  to  the  flat  nose  of  ^^^^^^^^ 
the  Gonds,  their  foreheads  and  the  general   shape  of  their  life. 
heads  are  of  a  better  mould.      Colonel  Ward  states  that  the 
members  of  the  tribe  inhabiting  the  Maikal  range  in  Mandla 
are  a   much  finer  race   than    those    living   nearer  the  open 
country.^      Their  figures  are  very  nearly  perfect,  says  Colonel 
Bloomfield,^  and  their  wiry  limbs,  unburdened  by  superfluous 
flesh,  will  carry  them   over  very  great   distances   and   over 
places  inaccessible  to  most  human  beings,  while  their  com- 
pact bodies  need  no  other  nutriment  than  the  scanty  fare 
afforded   by    their   native    forests.      They  are    born  hunters, 
hardy  and   active  in   the  chase,  and   exceedingly  bold   and 
courageous.      In  character  they  are  naturally  simple,  honest 
and   truthful,  and   when   their  fear  of  a  stranger  has  been 

1   Mandla  Settlement  Jieport  {l?>6S-6()),  Y>-   153- 
2  Notes  on  the  Baigas,  p.  4. 


dissipated  are  most  companionable  folk.  A  small  hut,  6  or 
7  feet  high  at  the  ridge,  made  of  split  bamboos  and  mud, 
with  a  neat  veranda  in  front  thatched  with  leaves  and  grass, 
forms  the  Baiga's  residence,  and  if  it  is  burnt  down,  or 
abandoned  on  a  visitation  of  epidemic  disease,  he  can  build 
another  in  the  space  of  a  day,  A  rough  earthen  vessel  to 
hold  water,  leaves  for  plates,  gourds  for  drinking-vessels,  a 
piece  of  matting  to  sleep  on,  and  a  small  axe,  a  sickle  and  a 
spear,  exhaust  the  inventory  of  the  Baiga's  furniture,  and  the 
money  value  of  the  whole  would  not  exceed  a  rupee.^  The 
Baigas  never  live  in  a  village  with  other  castes,  but  have 
their  huts  some  distance  away  from  the  village  in  the  jungle. 
Unlike  the  other  tribes  also,  the  Baiga  prefers  his  house  to 
stand  alone  and  at  some  little  distance  from  those  of  his 
fellow-tribesmen.  While  nominally  belonging  to  the  village 
near  which  they  dwell,  so  separate  and  distinct  are  they 
from  the  rest  of  people  that  in  the  famine  of  1897  cases 
were  found  of  starving  Baiga  hamlets  only  a  few  hundred 
yards  away  from  the  village  proper  in  which  ample  relief 
was  being  given.  On  being  questioned  as  to  why  they  had 
not  caused  the  Baigas  to  be  helped,  the  other  villagers  said, 
'  We  did  not  remember  them  '  ;  and  when  the  Baigas  were 
asked  why  they  did  not  apply  for  relief,  they  said,  '  We  did 
not  think  it  was  meant  for  Baigas.' 

Their  dress  is  of  the  most  simple  description,  a  small 
strip  of  rag  between  the  legs  and  another  wisp  for  a  head- 
covering  sufficing  for  the  men,  though  the  women  are  decently 
covered  from  their  shoulders  to  half-way  between  the  thighs 
and  knees.  A  Baiga  may  be  known  by  his  scanty  clothing 
and  tangled  hair,  and  his  wife  by  the  way  in  which  her  single 
garment  is  arranged  so  as  to  provide  a  safe  sitting- place  in 
it  for  her  child.  Baiga  women  have  been  seen  at  work  in 
the  field  transplanting  rice  with  babies  comfortably  seated  in 
their  cloth,  one  sometimes  supported  on  either  hip  with  their 
arms  and  legs  out,  while  the  mother  was  stooping  low,  hour 
after  hour,  handling  the  rice  plants.  A  girl  is  tattooed  on 
the  forehead  at  the  age  of  five,  and  over  her  whole  body 
before  she  is  married,  both  for  the  sake  of  ornament  and 
because  the  practice   is  considered   beneficial  to  the  health. 

1   Mr.  T.ampard's  monograph. 

11  /)h'j':ss  AND  i-oon  89 

The  Baif]^as  arc  usually  without  blankets  ox  warm  clothint^, 
and  in  the  cold  season  they  sleep  round  a  wood  fire  kept 
burning  or  smouldering  all  night,  stray  sparks  from  which 
may  alight  on  their  tough  skins  without  being  felt.  Mr. 
Lampard  relates  that  on  one  occasion  a  number  of  Baiga 
men  were  supplied  by  the  Mission  under  his  charge  with  large 
new  cloths  to  cover  their  bodies  with  and  make  them  pre- 
sentable on  appearance  in  church.  On  the  second  Sunday, 
however,  they  came  with  their  cloths  burnt  full  of  small 
holes  ;  and  they  explained  that  the  damage  had  been  done 
at  night  while  they  were  sleeping  round  the  fire. 

A  Baiga,  Mr.  Lampard  continues,  is  speedily  discerned 
in  a  forest  village  bazar,  and  is  the  most  interesting  object  in 
it.  His  almost  nude  figure,  wild,  tangled  hair  innocent  of 
such  inventions  as  brush  or  comb,  lithe  wiry  limbs  and  jungly 
and  uncivilised  appearance,  mark  him  out  at  once.  He 
generally  brings  a  few  mats  or  baskets  which  he  has  made, 
or  fruits,  roots,  honey,  horns  of  animals,  or  other  jungle 
products  which  he  has  collected,  for  sale,  and  with  the  sum 
obtained  (a  few  pice  or  annas  at  the  most)  he  proceeds  to 
make  his  weekly  purchases,  changing  his  pice  into  cowrie 
shells,  of  which  he  receives  eighty  for  each  one.  He  buys 
tobacco,  salt,  chillies  and  other  sundries,  besides  as  much  of 
kodon,  kutki,  or  perhaps  rice,  as  he  can  afford,  always  leaving 
a  trifle  to  be  expended  at  the  liquor  shop  before  departing  for 
home.  The  various  purchases  are  tied  up  in  the  corners  of 
the  bit  of  rag  twisted  round  his  head.  Unlike  pieces  of  cloth 
known  to  civilisation,  which  usually  have  four  corners,  the 
l^aiga's  headgear  appears  to  be  nothing  but  corners,  and  when 
the  shopping  is  done  the  strip  of  rag  may  have  a  dozen 
minute  bundles  tied  up  in  it. 

In  Baihar  of  Balaghat  buying  and  selling  are  conducted 
on  perhaps  the  most  minute  scale  known,  and  if  a  Baiga  has 
one  or  two  pice  ^  to  lay  out  he  will  spend  no  inconsiderable 
time  over  it.  Grain  is  sold  in  small  measures  holding  about 
four  ounces  called  baraiyas,  but  each  of  these  has  a  layer  of 
mud  at  the  bottom  of  varying  degrees  of  thickness,  so  as  to 
reduce  its  capacity.  Before  a  purchase  can  be  made  it  must 
be  settled  by  whose  baraiya  the  grain  is  to  be  measured,  and 

^   Farthings. 


the  seller  and  purchaser  each  refuse  the  other's  as  being 
unfair  to  himself,  until  at  length  after  discussion  some  neutral 
person's  baraiya  is  selected  as  a  compromise.  Their  food 
consists  largely  of  forest  fruits  and  roots  with  a  scanty 
allowance  of  rice  or  the  light  millets,  and  they  can  go 
without  nourishment  for  periods  which  appear  extraordinary 
to  civilised  man.  They  eat  the  flesh  of  almost  all  animals, 
though  the  more  civilised  abjure  beef  and  monkeys.  They 
will  take  food  from  a  Gond  but  not  from  a  Brahman.  The 
Baiga  dearly  loves  the  common  country  liquor  made  from 
the  mahua  flower,  and  this  is  consumed  as  largely  as  funds 
will  permit  of  at  weddings,  funerals  and  other  social  gatherings, 
and  also  if  obtainable  at  other  times.  They  have  a  tribal 
panchayat  or  committee  which  imposes  penalties  for  social 
offences,  one  punishment  being  the  abstention  from  meat  for 
a  fixed  period.  A  girl  going  wrong  with  a  man  of  the  caste 
is  punished  by  a  fine,  but  cases  of  unchastity  among  unmarried 
Baiga  girls  are  rare.  xA.mong  their  pastimes  dancing  is  one 
of  the  chief,  and  in  their  favourite  dance,  known  as  karma., 
the  men  and  women  form  long  lines  opposite  to  each  other 
with  the  musicians  between  them.  One  of  the  instruments, 
a  drum  called  nidndar,  gives  out  a  deep  bass  note  which  can 
be  heard  for  miles.  The  two  lines  advance  and  retire,  every- 
body singing  at  the  same  time,  and  when  the  dancers  get 
fully  into  the  time  and  swing,  the  pace  increases,  the  drums 
beat  furiously,  the  voices  of  the  singers  rise  higher  and  higher, 
and  by  the  light  of  the  bonfires  which  are  kept  burning  the 
whole  scene  is  wild  in  the  extreme. 

The  Baigas  formerly  practised  only  shifting  cultivation, 
burning  down  patches  of  jungle  and  sowing  seed  on  the 
ground  fertilised  by  the  ashes  after  the  breaking  of  the  rains. 
Now  that  this  method  has  been  prohibited  in  Government 
forest,  attempts  have  been  made  to  train  them  to  regular 
cultivation,  but  with  indifferent  success  in  Balaghat.  An 
idea  of  the  difficulties  to  be  encountered  may  be  obtained 
from  the  fact  that  in  some  villages  the  Baiga  cultivators,  if 
left  unwatched,  would  dig  up  the  grain  which  they  had 
themselves  sown  as  seed  in  their  fields  and  eat  it ;  while 
the  plough -cattle  which  were  given  to  them  invariably 
developed  diseases  in  spite  of  all   precautions,  as  a  result  of 


which  they  fcniiul  their  way  sooner  or  later  to  the  l')ai^a'.s 
cookinL;-pot.  lUit  they  arc  f;rachially  ucloptiiiL;  settled  habits, 
arul  in  MancHa,  where  a  considerable  block  of  forest  was 
allotted  to  them  in  which  they  might  continnc  their  destruc- 
tive practice  of  shifting  sowings,  it  is  reported  that  the 
majority  have  now  become  regular  cultivators.  One  explana- 
tion of  their  refusal  to  till  the  ground  is  that  they  consider 
it  a  sin  to  lacerate  the  breast  of  their  mother  earth  with  a 
ploughshare.  They  also  say  that  God  made  the  jungle  to 
produce  everything  necessary  for  the  sustenance  of  men  and 
made  the  Raigas  kings  of  the  forest,  giving  them  wisdom  to 
discover  the  things  provided  for  them.  To  Gonds  and  others 
who  had  not  this  knowledge,  the  inferior  occupation  of  tilling 
the  land  was  left.  The  men  never  become  farmservants,  but 
during  the  cultivating  season  they  work  for  hire  at  uprooting 
the  rice  seedlings  for  transplantation  ;  they  do  no  other 
agricultural  labour  for  others.  Women  do  the  actual  trans- 
plantation of  rice  and  work  as  harvesters.  The  men  make 
bamboo  mats  and  baskets,  which  they  sell  in  the  village 
weekly  markets.  They  also  collect  and  sell  honey  and  other 
forest  products,  and  are  most  expert  at  all  work  that  can  be 
done  with  an  axe,  making  excellent  woodcutters.  But  they 
show  no  aptitude  in  acquiring  the  use  of  any  other  implement, 
and  dislike  steady  continuous  labour,  preferring  to  do  a  few 
days'  work  and  then  rest  in  their  homes  for  a  like  period 
before  beginning  again.  Their  skill  and  dexterity  in  the  use 
of  the  axe  in  hunting  is  extraordinary.  Small  deer,  hares 
and  peacocks  are  often  knocked  over  by  throwing  it  at  them, 
and  panthers  and  other  large  animals  are  occasionally  killed 
with  a  single  blow.  If  one  of  two  Baigas  is  carried  off  by  a 
tiger,  the  survivor  will  almost  always  make  a  determined  and 
often  successful  attempt  to  rescue  him  with  nothing  more 
formidable  than  an  axe  or  a  stick.  They  are  expert  trackers, 
and  are  also  clever  at  setting  traps  and  snares,  while,  like 
Korkus,  they  catch  fish  by  damming  streams  in  the  hot 
weather  and  throwing  into  the  pool  thus  formed  some  leaf 
or  root  which  stupefies  them.  Even  in  a  famine  year,  Mr. 
Low  says,  a  Baiga  can  collect  a  large  basketful  of  roots  in  a 
single  day  ;  and  if  the  bamboo  seeds  he  is  amply  provided 
for.      Nowadays   Baiga  cultivators   may  occasionally  be  met 


with  who  have  taken  to  regular  cultivation  and  become  quite 

prosperous,  owning  a  number  of  cattle. 
10.  Lan-  As  already  stated,  the  Baigas  have  completely  fongotten 

guage.         their  own  language,  and  in  the  Satpura  hills  they  speak  a 

broken  form  of  Hindi,  though  they  have  a  certain  number 

of  words  and  expressions  peculiar  to  the  caste. 



1.  Defitiition   of  name   and  sta- 


2 .  The  four  SanipradCiyas  or  main 


3.  The  Rdmdnujis. 

4.  The  RdmCinandis. 

5.  The  Ninumandis. 

6.  The  MddJiavachdryas. 

7.  The  Vallabhachdryas. 

1 1. 



Minor  sects. 

The  seven  A  k haras. 

The  Dwdras. 

Initiation,      appearance     and 

Recruitment  of  the  order  and 

its  character. 
Social  position  and  customs. 
Bairdgi  motuistcries. 

I  5.   Married  Bairagis. 

Bairagfi,^  Sadhu. — The  general  term  for  members  of  i-  Defini- 
the  Vishnuite  religious  orders,  who  formerly  as  a  rule  lived  „ai'nrand 
by  mendicancy.  The  Bairagis  have  now,  however,  become  statistics. 
a  caste.  In  191 1  they  numbered  38,000  persons  in  the 
Provinces,  being  distributed  over  all  Districts  and  States. 
The  name  Bairagi  is  supposed  to  come  from  the  Sanskrit 
Vairagya  and  to  signify  one  who  is  free  from  human  passions. 
Bairaga  is  also  the  term  for  the  crutched  stick  which  such 
mendicants  frequently  carry  about  with  them  and  lean  upon, 
either  sitting  or  standing,  and  which  in  case  of  need  would 
serve  them  as  a  weapon.  Platts  considers ''  that  the  name 
of  the  order  comes  from  the  Sanskrit  abstract  term,  and  the 
crutch  therefore  apparently  obtained  its  name  from  being 
used  by  members  of  the  order.  Properly,  a  religious  mendi- 
cant of  any  Vishnuite  sect  should  be  called  a  Bairagi.  But 
the  term  is  not  generally  applied  to  the  more  distinctive 
sects  as  the  Kablrpanthi,  Swami-Narayan,  Satnami  and 
others,  some  of  whfch  are  almost  separated  from  Hinduism, 

'   This  article  contains  material  from       chSrya's     Hindu     Castes     and     Sects 
Sir  E.  Maclagan's  Punjab  Census  Re-       (Thacker,  Spink  &  Co.,  Calcutta). 
port   (1891),    and    Dr.    J.    N.    Bhatta-  -  Dictionary,  s.v. 




nor  to  the  Sikh  religious  orders,  nor  the  Chaitanya  sect  of 
Bengal.  A  proper  Bairagi  is  one  whose  principal  deity  is 
either  Vishnu  or  either  of  his  great  incarnations,  Rama  and 

It  is  generally  held  that  there  are  four  Sampradayas  or 
main  sects  of  Bairagis.      These  are — 

{a)  The  Ramanujis,  the  followers  of  the  first  prominent 
Vishnuite  reformer  Ramanuj  in  southern  India,  with  whom 
are  classed  the  Ramanandis  or  adherents  of  his  great  disciple 
Ramanand  in  northern  India.  Both  these  are  also  called 
Sri  Vaishnava,  that  is,  the  principal  or  original  Vaishnava 

(Jj)  The  Nimanandi,  Nimat  or  Nimbaditya  sect,  followers 
of  a  saint  called  Nimanand. 

{c)  The  Vishnu- Swami  or  Vallabhacharya  sect,  wor- 
shippers of  Krishna  and  Radha. 

[d)  The  Madhavacharya  sect  of  southern  India. 

It  will  be  desirable  to  give  a  few  particulars  of  each 
of  these,  mainly  taken  from  Wilson's  Hindu  Sects  and  Dr. 
Bhattacharya's  Hindu  Castes  and  Sects. 

Ramanuj  was  the  first  great  Vishnuite  prophet,  and  lived 
in  southern  India  in  the  eleventh  or  twelfth  century  on  an 
island  in  the  Kaveri  river  near  Trichinopoly.  He  preached 
the  worship  of  a  supreme  spirit,  Vishnu  and  his  consort 
Lakshmi,  and  taught  that  men  also  had  souls  or  spirits, 
and  that  matter  was  lifeless.  He  was  a  strong  opponent 
of  the  cult  of  Siva,  then  predominant  in  southern  India,  and 
of  phallic  worship.  He,  however,  admitted  only  the  higher 
castes  into  his  order,  and  cannot  therefore  be  considered  as 
the  founder  of  the  liberalising  principle  of  Vishnuism.  The 
superiors  of  the  Ramanuja  sect  are  called  Acharya,  and  rank 
highest  among  the  priests  of  the  Vishnuite  orders.  The 
most  striking  feature  in  the  practice  of  the  Ramanujis  is  the 
separate  preparation  and  scrupulous  privacy  of  their  meals. 
They  must  not  eat  in  cotton  garments,  but  must  bathe,  and 
then  put  on  wool  or  silk.  The  teachers  allow  their  select 
pupils  to  assist  them,  but  in  general  all  the  Ramanujis  cook 
for  themselves,  and  should  the  meal  during  this  process,  or 
while  they  are  eating,  attract  even  the  look  of  a  stranger,  the 
operation  is  instantly  stopped  and  the  viands  buried  in  the 

11  rilJ':  RAMANUJIS  -Tni'.   RAMANANPIS  95 

ground.  The  Rumruuijis  address  each  other  with  the  sakita- 
tion  Dasoham,  or  '  I  am  your  slave/  accompanied  with  the 
I'ranam  or  slight  inclination  of  the  head  and  the  applica- 
tion of  joined  hands  to  the  forehead.  To  the  Acharyas  or 
superiors  the  other  members  of  the  sect  perform  the  Ashtanga 
or  prostration  of  the  body  with  eight  parts  touching  the 
ground.  The  tilak  or  sect-mark  of  the  Ramanujis  consists 
of  two  perpendicular  white  lines  from  the  roots  of  the  hair 
to  the  top  of  the  eyebrows,  with  a  connecting  white  line  at 
the  base,  and  a  third  central  line  either  of  red  or  yellow. 
The  Ramanujis  do  not  recognise  the  worship  of  Radha, 
the  consort  of  Krishna.  The  mendicant  orders  of  the 
Satanis  and  Dasaris  of  southern  India  are  branches  of  this 

Ramanand,  the  great  prophet  of  Vishnuism  in  northern  4.  The 
India,  and  the  real  founder  of  the  liberal  doctrines  of  the  ^^^'"!'' 


cult,  lived  at  Benares  at  the  end  of  the  fourteenth  century, 
and  is  supposed  to  have  been  a  follower  of  Ramanuj.  He 
introduced,  however,  a  great  extension  of  his  predecessor's 
gospel  in  making  his  sect,  nominally  at  least,  open  to  all 
castes.  He  thus  initiated  the  struggle  against  the  social 
tyranny  and  exclusiveness  of  the  caste  system,  which  was 
carried  to  greater  lengths  by  his  disciples  and  successors, 
Kablr,  Nanak,  Dadu,  Rai  Das  and  others.  These  afterwards 
proclaimed  the  worship  of  one  unseen  god  who  could  not  be 
represented  by  idols,  and  the  religious  equality  of  all  men, 
their  tenets  no  doubt  being  considerably  influenced  by  their 
observance  of  Islam,  which  had  now  become  a  principal 
religion  of  India.  Ramanand  himself  did  not  go  so  far,  and 
remained  a  good  Hindu,  inculcating  the  special  worship  of 
Rama  and  his  consort  Sita.  The  Ramanandis  consider  the 
Ramayana  as  their  most  sacred  book,  and  make  pilgrimages 
to  Ajodhia  and  Ramnath.^  Their  sect-mark  consists  of  two 
white  lines  down  the  forehead  with  a  red  one  between,  but 
they  are  continued  on  to  the  nose,  ending  in  a  loop,  instead 
of  terminating  at  the  line  of  the  eyebrows,  like  that  of  the 
Ramanujis.  The  Ramanandis  say  that  the  mark  on  the 
nose  represents  the  Singasun  or  lion's  throne,  while  the  two 
white  lines  up  the  forehead  are  Rama  and  Lakhshman,  and 

*   Sir  E.  Maclagan's  Punjab  Cciistts  Report  (1S91),  p.   122. 



5-  The 

6.  The 


the  centre  red  one  is  Sita.  Some  of  their  devotees  wear 
ochre-coloured  clothes  like  the  Sivite  mendicants. 

The  second  of  the  four  orders  is  that  of  the  Nimanandis, 
called  after  a  saint  Nimanand.  He  lived  near  Mathura 
Brindaban,  and  on  one  occasion  was  engaged  in  religious 
controversy  with  a  Jain  ascetic  till  sunset.  He  then  offered 
his  visitor  some  refreshment,  but  the  Jain  could  not  eat 
anything  after  sunset,  so  Nimanand  stopped  the  sun  from 
setting,  and  ordered  him  to  wait  above  a  nlm  tree  till  the 
meal  was  cooked  and  eaten  under  the  tree,  and  this 
direction  the  sun  duly  obeyed.  Hence  Nimanand,  whose 
original  name  was  Bhaskaracharya,  was  called  by  his  new 
name  after  the  tree,  and  was  afterwards  held  to  have  been 
an  incarnation  of  Vishnu  or  the  Sun. 

The  doctrines  of  the  sect,  Mr.  Growse  states,-^  are  of 
a  very  enlightened  character.  Thus  their  tenet  of  salvation 
by  faith  is  thought  by  many  scholars  to  have  been  directly 
derived  from  the  Gospels  ;  while  another  article  in  their 
creed  is  the  continuance  of  conscious  individual  existence 
in  a  future  world,  when  the  highest  reward  of  the  good 
will  not  be  extinction,  but  the  enjoyment  of  the  visible 
presence  of  the  divinity  whom  they  have  served  while  on 
earth.  The  Nimanandis  worship  Krishna,  and  were  the 
first  sect,  Dr.  Bhattacharya  states,"  to  associate  with  him 
as  a  divine  consort  Radha,  the  chief  partner  of  his 
illicit  loves. 

Their  headquarters  arc  at  Muttra,  and  their  chief  festival 
is  the  Janam-Ashtami^  or  Krishna's  birthday.  Their  sect- 
mark  consists  of  two  white  lines  down  the  forehead  with 
a  bl,ack  patch  in  the  centre,  which  is  called  Shiambindini. 
Shiam  means  black,  and  is  a  name  of  Krishna.  They  also 
sometimes  have  a  circular  line  across  the  nose,  which 
represents  the  moon. 

The  third  great  order  is  that  of  the  Madhavas,  named 
after  a  saint  called  Madhavachfirya  in  southern  India.  He 
attempted  to  reconcile  the  warring  Sivites  and  Vishnuites 
by   combining    the   worship   of   Krisiina  with    that   of  Siva 

'   Memoir  of  Matlinra. 

^  Hi)idn  Ca<:les  and  Sects,  p.  449. 

^  I>it.  the  birth  on  the  eitjhth  day, 
as  Krishna  was  born  on  the  8th  of 
(iaik  r.iiadon. 


and  Pfirvati.  The  doctrine  of  the  sect  is  that  the  human 
soul  is  different  from  the  divine  soul,  and  its  members  arc 
therefore  called  dualists.  They  admit  a  distinction  between 
the  divine  soul  and  the  universe,  and  between  the  human 
soul  and  the  material  world.  They  deny  also  the  possibility 
of  Nirvana  or  the  absorption  and  extinction  of  the  human 
soul  in  the  divine  essence.  They  destroy  their  thread  at 
initiation,  and  also  wear  red  clothes  like  the  Sivite  devotees, 
and  like  them  also  they  carry  a  staff  and  water-pot.  The 
tilak  of  the  Madhavacharyas  is  said  to  consist  of  two  white 
lines  down  the  forehead  and  continued  on  to  the  nose 
where  they  meet,  with  a  black  vertical  line  between  them. 

The  fourth  main  order  is  the  Vishnu-Swami,  which  is  7-  The 
much  better  known  as  the  Vallabhacharya  sect,  called  after  chlrvas'^ 
its  founder  Vallabha,  who  was  born  in  A.D.  1479.  The 
god  Krishna  appeared  to  him  and  ordered  him  to  marry 
and  set  up  a  shrine  to  the  god  at  Gokul  near  Mathura 
(Muttra).  The  sect  worship  Krishna  in  his  character  of 
Bala  Gopala  or  the  cowherd  boy.  Their  temples  are 
numerous  all  over  India,  and  especially  at  Mathura  and 
Brindaban,  where  Krishna  was  brought  up  as  a  cowherd. 
The  temples  at  Benares,  Jagannath  and  Dwarka  are  rich 
and  important,  but  the  most  celebrated  shrine  is  at  Sri 
Nathadwara  in  Mewar.  The  image  is  said  to  have  trans- 
ported itself  thither  from  Mathura,  when  Aurangzeb  ordered 
its  temple  at  Mathura  to  be  destroyed.  Krishna  is  here 
represented  as  a  little  boy  in  the  act  of  supporting  the 
mountain  Govardhan  on  his  finger  to  shelter  the  people 
from  the  storms  of  rain  sent  by  Indra.  The  image  is 
splendidly  dressed  and  richly  decorated  with  ornaments  to 
the  value  of  several  thousand  pounds.  The  images  of 
Krishna  in  the  temples  are  commonly  known  as  Thakurji, 
and  are  either  of  stone  or  brass.  At  all  Vallabhacharya 
temples  there  are  eight  daily  services  :  the  Mangala  or 
morning  levee,  a  little  after  sunrise,  when  the  god  is  taken 
from  his  couch  and  bathed  ;  the  Sringara,  when  he  is 
attired  in  his  jewels  and  seated  on  his  throne  ;  the  Gwala, 
when  he  is  supposed  to  be  starting  to  graze  his  cattle  in 
the  woods  of  Braj  ;  the  Raj  Bhog  or  midday  meal,  which, 
after  presentation,  is  consumed  by  the  priests  and  votaries 

VOL.  II  H 

98  BAIRAGI  part 

who  have  assisted  at  the  ceremonies  ;  the  Uttapan,  about 
three  o'clock,  when  the  god  awakes  from  his  siesta ;  the 
Bhog  or  evening  collation  ;  the  Sandhiya  or  disrobing  at 
sunset ;  and  the  Sayan  or  retiring  to  rest.  The  ritual  is 
performed  by  the  priests  and  the  lay  worshipper  is  only 
a  spectator,  who  shows  his  reverence  by  the  same  forms 
as  he  would  to  a  human  superior/ 

The  priests  of  the  sect  are  called  Gokalastha  Gosain  or 
Maharaja.  They  are  considered  to  be  incarnations  of  the 
god,  and  divine  honours  are  paid  to  them.  They  always 
marry,  and  avow  that  union  with  the  god  is  best  obtained 
by  indulgence  in  all  bodily  enjoyments.  This  doctrine 
has  led  to  great  licentiousness  in  some  groups  of  the  sect, 
especially  on  the  part  of  the  priests  or  Maharajas.  Women 
were  taught  to  believe  that  the  service  of  and  contact  with 
the  priest  were  the  most  real  form  of  worshipping  the  god, 
and  that  intercourse  with  him  was  equivalent  to  being 
united  with  the  god.  Dr.  Bhattacharya  quotes  ^  the  follow- 
ing tariff  for  the  privilege  of  obtaining  different  degrees 
of  contact  with  the  body  of  the  Maharaja  or  priest : 

For  homage  by  sight       .  .  .      Rs.  5. 

For  homage  by  touch      .  .  .      Rs.  20. 

For  the  honour  of  washing  the  Maha- 
raja's foot        ....      Rs.  35. 

For  swinging  him   ....      Rs.  40. 

For  rubbing  sweet  unguents  on  his 

body        .....      Rs.  42. 

For  being  allowed   to   sit   with   him 

on  the  same  couch   .  .  .      Rs.  60. 

For    the    privilege  of  dancing  with 

him  .....      Rs.  100  to  200. 

For  drinking  the  water  in  which  he 

has  bathed      ....      Rs.  17. 

For  being  closeted  with  him  in  the 

same  room      ....      Rs,  50  to  500. 

The    public    disapprobation   caused    by  these    practices 

^   Mr.  Crookc's  7'rihes  and  Castes,  art.  Vallabhacharya. 
'■^  Hindu  Castes  and  Sects,  p.  457. 

Beijtrcse.  t\..>.,  Verb\ 


u  MINOR  SECTS  99 

and  their  bad  effect  on  the  morality  of  women  culminated 
in  the  great  Maharfij  libel  suit  in  the  l^ombay  High  Court 
in  1862.  Since  then  the  objectionable  features  of  the  cult 
have  to  a  large  extent  disappeared,  while  it  has  produced 
some  priests  of  exceptional  liberality  and  enlightenment. 
The  tilak  of  the  Vallabhacharyas  is  said  to  consist  of  two 
white  lines  down  the  forehead,  forming  a  half-circle  at  its 
base  and  a  white  dot  between  them.  They  will  not  admit 
the  lower  castes  into  the  order,  but  only  those  from  whom 
a  Brahman  can  take  water. 

Besides  the  main  sects  as  described  above,  Vaishnavism  8.  Minor 
has  produced  many  minor  sects,  consisting  of  the  followers  ^*^'^'^" 
of  some  saint  of  special  fame,  and  mendicants  belonging 
to  these  are  included  in  the  body  of  Bairagis.  One  or  two 
legends  concerning  such  saints  may  be  given.  A  common 
order  is  that  of  the  Bendiwale,  or  those  who  wear  a  dot. 
Their  founder  began  putting  a  red  dot  on  his  forehead 
between  the  two  white  lines  in  place  of  the  long  red  line 
of  the  Ramanandis.  His  associates  asked  him  why  he  had 
dared  to  alter  his  tilak  or  sect-mark.  He  said  that  the 
goddess  Janki  had  given  him  the  dot,  and  as  a  test  he  went 
and  bathed  in  the  Sarju  river,  and  rubbed  his  forehead  with 
water,  and  all  the  sect-mark  was  rubbed  out  except  the  dot. 
So  the  others  recognised  the  special  intervention  of  the 
goddess,  and  he  founded  a  sect.  Another  sect  is  called 
the  Chaturbhuji  or  four-armed,  Chaturbhuj  being  an  epithet 
of  Vishnu.  He  was  taking  part  in  a  feast  when  his  loin- 
cloth came  undone  behind,  and  the  others  said  to  him  that 
as  this  had  happened,  he  had  become  impure  at  the  feast. 
He  replied,  '  Let  him  to  whom  the  dhoti  belongs  tie  it  up,' 
and  immediately  four  arms  sprang  from  his  body,  and  while 
two  continued  to  take  food,  the  other  two  tied  up  his  loin- 
cloth behind.  Thus  it  was  recognised  that  the  Chaturbhuji 
Vishnu  had  appeared  in  him,  and  he  was  venerated. 

Among  the  Bairagis,  besides  the  four  Sampradayas  or  9.  The 
main  orders,  there  are  seven  Akharas.      These  are  military  ^^^"^^^g 
divisions   or  schools   for  training,  and   were  instituted   when 
the  Bairagis  had  to  fight  with  the  Gosains,      Any  member 
of  one  of  the  four  Sampradayas  can   belong  to  any  one  of 
the  seven  Akharas,  and  a  man  can  change  his  Akhara  as 

lOo  B  A  TRAGI  part 

often  as  he  likes,  but  not  his  Sampradaya.  The  Akharas, 
with  the  exception  of  the  Lasgaris,  who  change  the  red 
centre  line  of  the  Ramanandis  into  a  white  line,  have  no 
special  sect-marks.  They  are  distinguished  by  their  flags 
or  standards,  which  are  elaborately  decorated  with  gold 
thread  embroidered  on  silk  or  sometimes  with  jewels,  and 
cost  two  or  three  hundred  rupees  to  prepare.  These 
standards  were  carried  by  the  Naga  or  naked  members  of 
the  Akhara,  who  went  in  front  and  fought.  Once  in  twelve 
years  a  great  meeting  of  all  the  seven  Akharas  is  held  at 
Allahabad,  Nasik,  Ujjain  or  Hardwar,  where  they  bathe 
and  wash  the  image  of  the  god  in  the  water  of  the  holy 
rivers.  The  quarrels  between  the  Bairagis  and  Gosains 
usually  occurred  at  the  sacred  rivers,  and  the  point  of  con- 
tention was  which  sect  should  bathe  first.  The  following 
is  a  list  of  the  seven  Akharas  :  Digambari,  Khaki,  Munjia, 
Kathia,  Nirmohi,  Nirbani  or  Niranjani  and  Lasgari. 

The  name  of  the  Digamber  or  Meghdamber  signifies 
sky-clad  or  cloud-clad,  that  is  naked.  They  do  penance 
in  the  rainy  season  by  sitting  naked  in  the  rain  for  two  or 
three  hours  a  day  with  an  earthen  pot  on  the  head  and  the 
hands  inserted  in  two  others  so  that  they  cannot  rub  the 
skin.  In  the  dry  season  they  wear  only  a  little  cloth 
round  the  waist  and  ashes  over  the  rest  of  the  body.  The 
ashes  are  produced  from  burnt  cowdung  picked  up  off 
the  ground,  and  not  mixed  with  straw  like  that  which  is 
prepared  for  fuel. 

The  Khaki  Bairagis  also  rub  ashes  on  the  body.  During 
the  four  hot  months  they  make  five  fires  in  a  circle,  and 
kneel  between  them  with  the  head  and  legs  and  arms 
stretched  towards  the  fires.  The  fires  are  kindled  at  noon 
with  little  heaps  of  cowdung  cakes,  and  the  penitent  stays 
between  them  till  they  go  out.  They  also  have  a  block  of 
wood  with  a  hole  through  it,  into  which  they  insert  the 
organ  of  generation  and  suspend  it  by  chains  in  front  and 
behind.  They  rub  ashes  on  the  body,  from  which  they 
probably  get  their  name  of  Khaki  or  dust-colour. 

The  Munjia  Akhara  have  a  belt  made  of  inunj  grass 
round  the  \vaist,  and  a  little  apron  also  of  grass,  which  is 
hsung  from  -it,  and  passed   through  the  legs.      Formerly  they 

:i:i  'b  1 


wore  no  other  clothes,  but  now  they  have  a  cloth.      They 
also  do  penance  between  the  fires. 

The  Kathias  have  a  waist-belt  of  bamboo  fibre,  to  which 
is  suspended  the  wooden  block  for  the  purpose  already 
described.  Their  name  signifies  wooden,  and  is  probably 
given  to  them  on  account  of  this  custom. 

The  Nirmohi  carry  a  lota  or  brass  vessel  and  a  little 
cup,  in  which  they  receive  alms. 

The  Nirbani  wear  only  a  piece  of  string  or  rope  round 
the  waist,  to  which  is  attached  a  small  strip  o'^  o^h  passing 
through  the  legs.  When  begging,  they  carry  a  kawar  or 
banghy,  holding  two  baskets  covered  with  cloth,  and  into 
this  they  put  all  their  alms.  They  never  remove  the  cloth, 
but  plunge  their  hands  into  the  basket  at  random  when  they 
want  something  to  eat.  They  call  the  basket  Kamdhenu, 
the  name  of  the  cow  which  gave  inexhaustible  wealth. 
These  Bairagis  commonly  marry  and  accumulate  property. 

The  Lasgari  are  soldiers,  as  the  name  denotes.^  They 
wear  three  straight  lines  of  sandalwood  up  the  forehead. 
It  is  said  that  on  one  occasion  the  Bairagis  were  suddenly 
attacked  by  the  Gosains  when  they  had  only  made  the 
white  lines  of  the  sect-mark,  and  they  fought  as  they  were. 
In  consequence  of  this,  they  have  ever  since  worn  three 
white  lines  and  no  red  one. 

Others  say  that  the  Lasgari  are  a  branch  of  the  Digambari 
Akhara,  and  that  the  Munjia  and  Kathia  are  branches  of  the 
Khaki  Akhara.  They  give  three  other  Akharas — Niralankhi, 
Mahanirbani  and  Santokhi — about  which  nothing  is  known. 

Besides  the  Akharas,  the  Bairagis  are  said  to  have  fifty-  ^o.  The 
two  Dwaras  or  doors,  and  every  man  must  be  a  member  i^w^ras. 
of  a  Dwara  as  well  as  of  a  Sampradaya  and  Akhara.  The 
Dwaras  seem  to  have  no  special  purpose,  but  in  the  case 
of  Bairagis  who  marry,  they  now  serve  as  exogamous 
sections,  so  that  members  of  the  same  Dwara  do  not  inter- 

A  candidate  for  initiation  has  his  head  shaved,  is  invested  n.  initia- 
with  a  necklace  of  beads  of  the  tulsi  or  basil,  and  is  taught  a  ''°"' 

'  ^  appearance 

mantra  or  text  relating  to  Vishnu  by  his  preceptor.      The  and 
initiation  text  of  the  Ramanandis  is  said  to  be  Ovi  Rdniaya  '="^^°"^^- 

1   From  laskkar,  an  army. 



Namali,  or  0)n,  Salutation  to  Rama.  Om  is  a  very  sacred 
syllable,  having  much  magical  power.  Thereafter  the  novice 
must  journey  to  Dwarka  in  Gujarat  and  have  his  body 
branded  with  hot  iron  or  copper  in  the  shape  of  Vishnu's 
four  implements  :  the  cJiakra  or  discus,  the  guda  or  club,  the 
shank  or  conch-shell  and  the  padina  or  lotus.  Sometimes 
these  are  not  branded  but  are  made  daily  on  the  arms  with 
clay.  The  sect-mark  should  be  made  with  Gopichandan  or 
the  milkmaid's  sandalwood.  This  is  supposed  to  be  clay 
taken  from  a  tank  at  Dwarka,  in  which  the  Gopis  or  milk- 
maids who  had  been  Krishna's  companions  drowned  them- 
selves when  they  heard  of  his  death.  But  as  this  can  seldom 
be  obtained  any  suitable  whitish  clay  is  used  instead.  The 
Bairagis  commonly  let  their  hair  grow  long,  after  being 
shaved  at  initiation,  to  imitate  the  old  forest  ascetics.  If  a 
man  makes  a  pilgrimage  on  foot  to  some  famous  shrine  he 
may  have  his  head  shaved  there  and  make  an  offering  of  his 
hair.  Others  keep  their  hair  long  and  shave  it  only  at  the 
death  of  their  guru  or  preceptor.  They  usually  wear  white 
clothes,  and  if  a  man  has  a  cloth  on  the  upper  part  of  the 
body  it  should  be  folded  over  the  shoulders  and  knotted  at 
the  neck.  He  also  has  a  cliimta  or  small  pair  of  tongs,  and, 
if  he  can  obtain  it,  the  skin  of  an  Indian  antelope,  on  which 
he  will  sit  while  taking  his  food.  The  skin  of  this  animal  is 
held  to  be  sacred.  Every  Bairagi  before  he  takes  his  food 
should  dip  a  sprig  of  tulsi  or  basil  into  it  to  sanctify  it,  and 
if  he  cannot  get  this  he  uses  his  necklace  of  i'///jz'-beads  for 
the  purpose  instead.  The  caste  abstain  from  flesh  and 
liquor,  but  are  addicted  to  the  intoxicating  drugs,  gdnja  and 
bhang  or  preparations  of  Indian  hemp.  A  Hindu  on  meeting 
a  Bairagi  will  greet  him  with  the  phrase  '  Jai  Sitaram,'  and  the 
Bairagi  will  answer, '  Sitaram.'  This  word  is  a  conjunction  of 
the  names  of  Rama  and  his  consort  Sita.  When  a  Bairagi 
receives  alms  he  will  present  to  the  giver  a  flower  and  a 
sprig  of  tidsi. 

A  man  belonging  to  any  caste  except  the  impure  ones 
can  be  initiated  as  a  Bairagi,  and  the  order  is  to  a 
large  extent  recruited  from  the  lower  castes.  Theoretic- 
ally all  members  of  the  order  should  eat  together  ;  but  the 
Brahmans  and  other  high  castes  belonging  to  it  now  eat  only 


-.  c 




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^  a. 

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5  < 

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— ^  X 


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in)   iLl 




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DO    O 










II  SOCIAL  rosrriON  and  customs  103 

among  themselves,  except  on  the  occasion  of  a  Ghosti  or 
special  religious  assembly,  when  all  eat  in  common.  As  a 
matter  of  fact  the  order  is  a  very  mixed  assortment  of 
people.  Many  persons  who  lost  their  caste  in  the  famine 
of  1 897  from  eating  in  Government  poor-houses,  joined 
the  order  and  obtained  a  respectable  position.  Debtors  who 
have  become  hopelessly  involved  sometimes  find  in  it  a 
means  of  escape  from  their  creditors.  Women  of  bad 
character,  who  have  been  expelled  from  their  caste,  are  also 
frequently  enrolled  as  female  members,  and  in  monasteries 
live  openly  with  the  men.  The  caste  is  also  responsible  for 
a  good  deal  of  crime.  Not  only  is  the  disguise  a  very  con- 
venient one  for  thieves  and  robbers  to  assume  on  their 
travels,  but  many  regular  members  of  the  order  are 
criminally  disposed.  Nevertheless  large  numbers  of  Bairagis 
are  men  who  have  given  up  their  caste  and  families  from 
a  genuine  impulse  of  self-sacrifice,  and  the  desire  to  lead  a 
religious  life. 

On  account  of  their  sanctity  the  Bairagis  have  a  fairly  13.  Social 
good    social    position,    and    respectable    Hindu    castes    will  and"°" 
accept  cooked  food  from  them.      Brahmans  usually,  but  not  customs, 
always,  take  water.      They  act  as  gurus  or  spiritual  guides 
to  the  laymen  of  all  castes  who  can  become  Bairagis.     They 
give  the  Ram  and  Gopal  Mantras,  or  the  texts  of  Rama  and 
Krishna,  to  their  disciples  of  the  three  twice-born  castes,  and 
the  Sheo  Mantra  or  Siva's  text  to  other  castes.     The  last  is 
considered  to  be  of  smaller  religious  efficacy  than  the  others, 
and  is  given  to  the  lower  castes  and  members  of  the  higher 
ones  who  do  not  lead  a  particularly  virtuous  life.     They  invest 
boys    with   the   sacred    thread,  and   make  the  sect-mark  on 
their  foreheads.      When  they  go  and  visit  their  disciples  they 
receive  presents,  but  do  not  ask  them  to  confess  their  sins 
nor  impose  penalties. 

If  a  mendicant  Bairagi  keeps  a  woman  it  is  stated  that 
he  is  expelled  from  the  community,  but  this  rule  does  not 
seem  to  be  enforced  in  practice.  If  he  is  detected  in  a 
casual  act  of  sexual  intercourse  a  fine  should  be  imposed, 
such  as  feeding  two  or  three  hundred  Bairagis.  The 
property  of  an  unmarried  Bairagi  descends  to  a  selected 
chela  or  disciple.      The  bodies  of  the  dead  are  usually  burnt, 



but  those  of  saints  specially  famous  for  their  austerities  or 
piety  are  buried,  and  salt  is  put  round  the  body  to  preserve 
it.      Such  men  are  known  as  Bhakta. 

The  Bairagis  ^  have  numerous  maths  or  monasteries, 
scattered  over  the  country  and  usually  attached  to  temples. 
The  Math  comprises  a  set  of  huts  or  chambers  for  the 
Mahant  or  superior  and  his  permanent  pupils  ;  a  temple 
and  often  the  Samadhi  or  tomb  of  the  founder,  or  of  some 
eminent  Mahant  ;  and  a  Dharmsala  or  charitable  hostel  for 
the  accommodation  of  wandering  members  of  the  order,  and 
of  other  travellers  who  are  constantly  visiting  the  temple. 
Ingress  and  egress  are  free  to  all,  and,  indeed,  a  restraint  on 
personal  liberty  seems  never  to  have  entered  into  the  con- 
ception of  any  Hindu  religious  legislator.  There  are,  as  a 
rule,  a  small  number  of  resident  cJielas  or  disciples  who  are 
scholars  and  attendants  on  the  superiors,  and  also  out- 
members  who  travel  over  the  country  and  return  to  the 
monastery  as  a  headquarters.  The  monastery  has  commonly 
some  small  endowment  in  land,  and  the  resident  cJielas  go 
out  and  beg  for  alms  for  their  common  support.  If  the 
Mahant  is  married  the  headship  may  descend  in  his  family  ; 
but  when  he  is  unmarried  his  successor  is  one  of  his  disciples, 
who  is  commonly  chosen  by  election  at  a  meeting  of  the 
Mahants  of  neighbouring  monasteries.  Formerly  the  Hindu 
governor  of  the  district  would  preside  at  such  an  election, 
but  it  is  now,  of  course,  left  entirely  to  the  Bairagis  them- 

Large  numbers  of  Bairagis  now  marry  and  have  children, 
and  have  formed  an  ordinary  caste.  The  married  Bairagis 
are  held  to  be  inferior  to  the  celibate  mendicants,  and 
will  take  food  from  them,  but  the  mendicants  will  not 
permit  the  married  Bairagis  to  eat  with  them  in  the  cJiauka 
or  place  purified  for  the  taking  of  food.  The  customs  of 
the  married  Bairagis  resemble  those  of  ordinary  Hindu 
castes  such  as  the  Kurmis.  They  permit  divorce  and  the 
remarriage  of  widows,  and  burn  the  dead.  Those  who  have 
taken  to  cultivation  do  not,  as  a  rule,  plough  with  their  own 
hands.      Many  Bairagis  have  acquired  property  and  become 

^  This  paragraph  is  taken  from  Professor  Wilson's  Account  of  Hindu  Sects  in 
the  Asiatic  Researches. 


II  BALAHI  105 

landholders,  and  others  have  extensive  moneylendin^  trans- 
actions. Two  such  men  who  had  acquired  possession  of 
extensive  tracts  of  zamlndari  land  in  Chhattlsgarh,  in  satis- 
faction of  loans  made  to  the  Gond  zamlndfirs,  and  had  been 
given  the  zamlndari  status  by  the  Marathas,  were  subse- 
quently made  Feudatory  Chiefs  of  the  Nandgaon  and 
Chhuikhadan  States.  These  chiefs  now  marry  and  the 
States  descend  in  their  families  by  primogeniture  in  the 
ordinary  manner.  As  a  rule,  the  Bairagi  landowners  and 
moneylenders  are  not  found  to  be  particularly  good  specimens 
of  their  class. 

Balahi.^ — A  low  functional  caste  of  weavers  and  village  i.  General 
watchmen  found  in  the  Nimar  and  Hoshangabad  Districts 
and  in  Central  India.  They  numbered  52,000  persons  in 
the  Central  Provinces  in  191 1,  being  practically  confined  to 
the  two  Districts  already  mentioned.  The  name  is  a  cor- 
ruption of  the  Hindi  bnldhi,  one  who  calls,  or  a  messenger. 
The  Balahis  seem  to  be  an  occupational  group,  probably  an 
offshoot  of  the  large  Kori  caste  of  weavers,  one  of  whose 
subdivisions  is  shown  as  Balahi  in  the  United  Provinces. 
In  the  Central  Provinces  they  have  received  accretions  from 
the  spinner  caste  of  Katias,  themselves  probably  a  branch  of 
the  Koris,  and  from  the  Mahars,  the  great  menial  caste  of 
Bombay.  In  Hoshangabad  they  are  known  alternatively  as 
Mahar,  while  in  Burhanpur  they  are  called  Bunkar  or 
weaver  by  outsiders.  The  following  story  which  they  tell 
about  themselves  also  indicates  their  mixed  origin.  They 
say  that  their  ancestors  came  to  Nimar  as  part  of  the  army 
of  Raja  Man  of  Jodhpur,  who  invaded  the  country  when  it 
was  under  Muhammadan  rule.  He  was  defeated,  and  his 
soldiers  were  captured  and  ordered  to  be  killed."  One  of 
the  Balahis  among  them  won  the  favour  of  the  Muham- 
madan general  and  asked  for  his  own  freedom  and  that  of 
the  other  Balahis  from  among  the  prisoners.      The  Musalman 

^   This  article  is  based  on  papers  by  reminiscence  of  the  historical  fact  that 

Mr.  Habib  Ullah,  Pleader,  Burhanpur,  a  Malvva  army  was  misled  by  a  Gond 

Mr.  W.  Bagley,  Subdivisional  Officer,  guide  in  the  Nimar  forests  and  cut  up 

and  Munsh  Kanhya  Lai,  of  the  Gazet-  by  the  local  Muhammadan  ruler.     The 

teer  office.  well-known  Raja  Man  of  Jodhpur  was, 

2  This  legend   is  probably  a  vague  it  is  believed,  never  in  Nimar. 

io6  BALA  HI  PART 

replied  that  he  would  be  unable  to  determine  which  of 
the  prisoners  were  really  Balahis,  On  this  the  Balahi, 
whose  name  was  Ganga  Kochla,  replied  that  he  had  an 
effective  test.  He  therefore  killed  a  cow,  cooked  its  flesh 
and  invited  the  prisoners  to  partake  of  it.  So  many  of  them 
as  consented  to  eat  were  considered  to  be  Balahis  and 
liberated  ;  but  many  members  of  other  castes  thus  obtained 
their  freedom,  and  they  and  their  descendants  are  now  in- 
cluded in  the  community.  The  subcastes  or  endogamous 
groups  distinctly  indicate  the  functional  character  of  the 
caste,  the  names  given  being  Nimari,  Gannore,  Katia,  Kori 
and  Mahar.  Of  these  Katia,  Kori  and  Mahar  are  the 
names  of  distinct  castes,  Nimari  is  a  local  subdivision  in- 
dicating those  who  speak  the  peculiar  dialect  of  this  tract, 
and  the  Gannore  are  no  doubt  named  after  the  Rajput  clan 
of  that  name,  of  whom  their  ancestors  were  not  improbably 
the  illegitimate  offspring.  The  Nimari  Balahis  are  said  to 
rank  lower  than  the  rest,  as  they  will  eat  the  flesh  of  dead 
cattle  which  the  others  refuse  to  do.  They  may  not  take 
water  from  the  village  well,  and  unless  a  separate  one  can 
be  assigned  to  them,  must  pay  others  to  draw  water  for 
them.  Partly  no  doubt  in  the  hope  of  escaping  from  this 
degraded  position,  many  of  the  Nimari  group  became 
Christians  in  the  famine  of  1897.  They  are  considered  to 
be  the  oldest  residents  of  Nimar.  At  marriages  the  Balahi 
receives  as  his  perquisite  the  leaf-plates  used  for  feasts  with 
the  leavings  of  food  upon  them  ;  and  at  funerals  he  takes 
the  cloth  which  covers  the  corpse  on  its  way  to  the  burning- 
glidt.  In  Nimar  the  Korkus  and  Balahis  each  have  a 
separate  burying-ground  which  is  known  as  Murghata.^  The 
Katias  weave  the  finer  kinds  of  cloth  and  rank  a  little 
higher  than  the  others.  In  Burhanpur,  as  already  stated, 
the  caste  are  known  as  Bunkar,  and  they  are  probably 
identical  with  the  Bunkars  of  Khandesh  ;  Bunkar  is  simply 
an  occupational  term  meaning  a  weaver. 
2.  Mar-  The  caste  have  the  usual  system  of  exogamous  groups, 

"^^^'  some  of  which  are  named  after  villages,  while  the  designa- 
tions of  others  are  apparently  nicknames  given  to  the  founder 
of  the  clan,  as  Bagmar,  a  tiger-killer,  Bhagoria,  a  runaway, 

^  The  ghat  or  river-bank  for  the  disposal  of  corpses. 

11  or  ITER  CUSTOMS  107 

and  so  on.  They  employ  a  Brahman  to  calculate  the 
horoscopes  of  a  bridal  couple  and  fix  the  date  of  their 
wedding,  but  if  he  says  the  marriage  is  inauspicious,  they 
merely  obtain  the  permission  of  the  caste  panchdyat  and 
celebrate  it  on  a  Saturday  or  Sunday.  Apparently,  however, 
they  do  not  consult  real  Brahmans,  but  merely  priests  of  their 
own  caste  whom  they  call  Balahi  Brahmans.  These  Brahmans 
are,  nevertheless,  said  to  recite  the  Satya  Narayan  Katha. 
They  also  have  gums  or  spiritual  preceptors,  being  members 
of  the  caste  who  have  joined  the  mendicant  orders  ;  and 
Bhats  or  genealogists  of  their  own  caste  who  beg  at  their 
weddings.  They  have  the  practice  of  serving  for  a  wife, 
known  as  Gharjamai  or  Lamjhana.  When  the  pauper  suitor 
is  finally  married  at  the  expense  of  his  wife's  father,  a 
marriage -shed  is  erected  for  him  at  the  house  of  some 
neighbour,  but  his  own  family  are  not  invited  to  the 

After  marriage  a  girl  goes  to  her  husband's  house  for  a 
few  days  and  returns.  The  first  Diwali  or  Akha-tij  festival 
after  the  wedding  must  also  be  passed  at  the  husband's 
house,  but  consummation  is  not  effected  until  the  ama  or 
gauna  ceremony  is  performed  on  the  attainment  of  puberty. 
The  cost  of  a  wedding  is  about  Rs.  80  to  the  bridegroom's 
family  and  Rs.  20  to  the  bride's  family.  A  widow  is  for- 
bidden to  marry  her  late  husband's  brother  or  other  relatives. 
At  the  wedding  she  is  dressed  in  new  clothes,  and  the  fore- 
heads of  the  couple  are  marked  with  cowdung  as  a  sign  of 
purification.  They  then  proceed  by  night  to  the  husband's 
village,  and  the  woman  waits  till  morning  in  some  empty 
building,  when  she  enters  her  husband's  house  carrying  two 
water-pots  on  her  head  in  token  of  the  fertility  which  she  is 
to  bring  to  it. 

Like  the  Mahars,  the  Balahis  must  not  kill  a  dog  or  a  3.  other 
cat  under  pain  of  expulsion  ;  but  it  is  peculiar  that  in  their 
case  the  bear  is  held  equally  sacred,  this  being  probably  a 
residue  of  some  totemistic  observance.  The  most  binding 
form  of  oath  which  they  can  use  is  by  any  one  of  these 
animals.  The  Balahis  will  admit  any  Hindu  into  the 
community  except  a  man  of  the  very  lowest  castes,  and  also 
Gonds  and   Korkus.      The  head  and   face  of  the  neophyte 


are  shaved  clean,  and  he  is  made  to  lie  on  the  ground  under 
a  string-cot ;  a  number  of  the  Balahis  sit  on  this  and  wash 
themselves,  letting  the  water  drip  from  their  bodies  on  to 
the  man  below  until  he  is  well  drenched  ;  he  then  gives  a 
feast  to  the  caste-fellows,  and  is  considered  to  have  become 
a  Balahi.  It  is  reported  also  that  they  will  receive  back 
into  the  community  Balahi  women  who  have  lived  with  men 
of  other  castes  and  even  with  Jains  and  Muhammadans. 
They  will  take  food  from  members  of  these  religions  and  of 
any  Hindu  caste,  except  the  most  impure. 

1.  Origin  Balija,    Balji,    Gurusthulu,   Naidu. — A    large   trading 
f"*^.  .         caste  of  the  Madras  Presidency,  where  they  number  a  million 

traditions.  •'  '  •' 

persons.  In  the  Central  Provinces  1200  were  enumerated 
in  191 1,  excluding  1500  Perikis,  who  though  really  a  sub- 
caste  and  not  a  very  exalted  one  of  Balijas,^  claim  to  be  a 
separate  caste.  They  are  mainly  returned  from  places  where 
Madras  troops  have  been  stationed,  as  Nagpur,  Jubbulpore 
and  Raipur.  The  caste  are  frequently  known  as  Naidu, 
a  corruption  of  the  Telugu  word  Nayakdu,  a  prince  or 
leader.  Their  ancestors  are  supposed  to  have  been  Nayaks 
or  kings  of  Madura,  Tanjore  and  Vijayanagar.  The  tra- 
ditional occupation  of  the  caste  appears  to  have  been  to 
make  bangles  and  pearl  and  coral  ornaments,  and  they  have 
still  a  subcaste  called  Gazulu,  or  a  bangle-seller.  In  Madras 
they  are  said  to  be  an  offshoot  of  the  great  cultivating  castes 
of  Kamma  and  Kapu  and  to  be  a  mixed  community  recruited 
from  these  and  other  Telugu  castes.  Another  proof  of  their 
mixed  descent  may  be  inferred  from  the  fact  that  they  will 
admit  persons  of  other  castes  or  the  descendants  of  mixed 
marriages  into  the  community  without  much  scruple  in 
Madras.^  The  name  of  Balija  seems  also  to  have  been 
applied  to  a  mixed  caste  started  by  Basava,  the  founder  of 
the  Lingayat  sect  of  Sivites,  these  persons  being  known  in 
Madras  as  Linga  Balijas. 

2.  Mar-  The  Balijas  have  two  main  divisions,  Desa  or  Kota,  and 
riage.          Peta,  the  Desas  or  Kotas  being  those  who  claim  descent  from 

the  old  Balija  kings,  while  the  Petas  are  the  trading  Balijas, 
and  are  further  subdivided  into  groups  like  the  Gazulu  or 

1  Madras  Census  Report  (1891),  p.  277.  -  Ibidej?i  (1891),  p.  226. 


banglc-sellcrs  and  the  Pcriki  or  salt-sellers.  The  subdivisions 
are  not  strictly  cndoj^amous.  Every  family  has  a  surname, 
and  exogamous  groups  or  gotras  also  exist,  but  these  have 
generally  been  forgotten,  and  marriages  are  regulated  by  the 
surnames,  the  only  prohibition  being  that  persons  of  the 
same  surname  may  not  intermarry.  Instances  of  such  names 
are  :  Singiri,  Gudari,  Jadal,  Sangnad  and  Dasiri.  In  fact 
the  rules  of  exogamy  are  so  loose  that  an  instance  is  known 
of  an  uncle  having  married  his  niece.  Marriage  is  usually 
infant,  and  the  ceremony  lasts  for  five  days.  On  the  first 
day  the  bride  and  bridegroom  are  seated  on  a  yoke  in  the 
pandal  or  marriage  pavilion,  where  the  relatives  and  guests 
assemble.  The  bridegroom  puts  a  pair  of  silver  rings  on  the 
bride's  toes  and  ties  the  mangal-sfitravi  or  flat  circular  piece 
of  gold  round  her  neck.  On  the  next  three  days  the  bride- 
groom and  bride  are  made  to  sit  on  a  plank  or  cot  face  to 
face  with  each  other  and  to  throw  flowers  and  play  together 
for  two  hours  in  the  mornings  and  evenings.  On  the  fourth 
day,  at  dead  of  night,  they  are  seated  on  a  cot  and  the  jewels 
and  gifts  for  the  bride  are  presented,  and  she  is  then  formally 
handed  over  to  the  bridegroom's  family.  In  Madras  Mr. 
Thurston  ^  states  that  on  the  last  day  of  the  marriage 
ceremony  a  mock  ploughing  and  sowing  rite  is  held,  and 
during  this,  the  sister  of  the  bridegroom  puts  a  cloth  over 
the  basket  containing  earth,  wherein  seeds  are  to  be  sown 
by  the  bridegroom,  and  will  not  allow  him  to  go  on  with 
the  ceremony  till  she  has  extracted  a  promise  that  his  first- 
born daughter  shall  marry  her  son.  No  bride-price  is  paid, 
and  the  remarriage  of  widows  is  forbidden. 

The  Balijas  bury  their  dead  in  a  sitting  posture.      In  the  3-  Occupa- 
Central  Provinces  they  are  usually  Lingayats  and  especially  soc'iai^ 
worship  Gauri,  Siva's  wife.      Jangams  serve  them  as  priests,  status. 
They  usually  eat   flesh   and   drink  liquor,  but  in    Chanda  it 
is  stated   that  both  these  practices  are  forbidden.      In   the 
Central   Provinces  they  are  mainly  cultivators,  but  some  of 
them   still   sell    bangles   and    salt.      Several   of  them   are  in 
Government  service  and  occupy  a  fairly  high  social  position. 

In    Madras    a    curious    connection    exists    between    the 
Kapus  and  Balijas  and  the  impure  Mala  caste.      It  is  said 

1  Ethnographic  Notes  in  Southern  India,  p.  16, 

no  BALIJA  partii 

that  once  upon  a  time  the  Kapus  and  Balijas  were  flying  from 
the  Muhammadans  and  came  to  the  northern  Pallar  river  in 
high  flood.  They  besought  the  river  to  go  down  and  let 
them  across,  but  it  demanded  the  sacrifice  of  a  first-born 
child.  While  the  Kapus  and  Balijas  were  hesitating,  the 
Malas  who  had  followed  them  boldly  sacrificed  one  of  their 
children.  Immediately  the  river  divided  before  them  and 
they  all  crossed  in  safety.  Ever  since  then  the  Kapus  and 
Balijas  have  respected  the  Malas,  and  the  Balijas  formerly 
even  deposited  the  images  of  the  goddess  Gauri,  of  Ganesha, 
and  of  Siva's  bull  with  the  Malas,  as  the  hereditary  custo- 
dians of  their  gods.^ 

1  Madras  Census  Report  (1S91),  p.  277. 



1 .  Gc7ic7-al  ttoticc. 

2.  The  Banias  a  true  caste :  use 

of  the  name. 

3.  Their  distinctive  occupation. 

4.  Tlicir  distinctive  status. 

5.  The  endogamous  divisions  of 

the  Banias. 

6.  The  Batiias  derived  from  the 


7.  Banias  employed  as  ministers 

in  Rajpiit  courts. 

8.  Subcastes. 

9.  Hindu    and   fain    subcastes  : 

divisions  among  subcastes. 
I  o.   Exogamy  and  rules  regulating 

1 1 .  Marriage  customs. 

12.  Polygamy    and    widoiu-mar- 


13.  Disposal    of    the     dead    and 


14.  Religiofi :  the  god  Ganpati  or 

1  5 .  Diwdli  festival. 

16.  Holi  festival. 

17.  Social   customs:     rules  about 


18.  Character  of  the  Bania. 

19.  Dislike  of  the  cultivators  to- 

Tvards  him. 

20.  His  virtues. 

2  I .    'The  moneylender  changed  J  or 

the  worse. 

22.  The  enforcement  of  contracts. 

23.  Cash  coi?iage  ajul  the  rate  of 


24.  Proprietary  and   transferable 

rights  in  land. 
2  5 .    The  Ba7tia  as  a  landlord. 
2  6 .    Commercial  honesty. 


1.  Agarwala,  Aganval.  10.   Kasarwani. 

2.  Agrahari.  11.    Kasaundhan. 

3.  Ajudhiabasi,  Audhia.  12.   Khandelwal. 

4.  Asathi.  1 3.    Lad. 

5.  Charnagri,    Channagri,    Sam-       14.   Lingayat. 

aiya.  15.    Maheshri. 

6.  Dhusar,  Bhargava  Dhusar.  16.    Nema. 

7.  Dosar,  Dusra.  17.   Oswal. 

8.  Gahoi.  18.   Parwar. 

9.  Golapurab,  Golahre.  19.   Srimali. 

20.  Umre. 

Bania,    Bani,   Vani,    Mahajan,   Seth,   Sahukar. — The  i.  General 
occupational  caste  of  bankers,  moneylenders  and  dealers  in  no^'ce. 


2.  The 
Banias  a 

grain,  ^//f  (butter),  groceries  and  spices.  The  name  Bania  is 
derived  from  the  Sanskrit  vanij\  a  merchant.  In  western 
India  the  Banias  are  always  called  Vania  or  Vani.  Mahajan 
literally  means  a  great  man,  and  being  applied  to  successful 
Banias  as  an  honorific  title  has  now  come  to  signify  a 
banker  or  moneylender  ;  Seth  signifies  a  great  merchant  or 
capitalist,  and  is  applied  to  Banias  as  an  honorific  prefix.  The 
words  Sdhu,  Sao  and  SdJiukdr  mean  upright  or  honest,  and 
have  also,  curiously  enough,  come  to  signify  a  moneylender. 
The  total  number  of  Banias  in  the  Central  Provinces  in 
191 1  was  about  200,000,  or  rather  over  one  per  cent  of 
the  population.  Of  the  above  total  two-thirds  were  Hindus 
and  one-third  Jains.  The  caste  is  fairly  distributed  over  the 
whole  Province,  being  most  numerous  in  Districts  with  large 
towns  and  a  considerable  volume  of  trade. 

There  has  been  much  difference  of  opinion  as  to  whether 
the  name  Bania  should  be  taken  to  signify  a  caste,  or  whether 
caste :  use  it  is  merely  an  occupational  term  applied  to  a  number  of 
name^  distinct  castcs.      I    venture    to    think    it    is    necessary    and 

scientifically  correct  to  take  it  as  a  caste.  In  Bengal  the 
word  Banian,  a  corruption  of  Bania,  has  probably  come  to 
be  a  general  term  meaning  simply  a  banker,  or  person 
dealing  in  money.  But  this  does  not  seem  to  be  the  case 
elsewhere.  As  a  rule  the  name  Bania  is  used  only 
as  a  caste  name  for  groups  who  are  considered  both  by 
themselves  and  outsiders  to  belong  to  the  Bania  caste.  It 
may  occasionally  be  applied  to  members  of  other  castes,  as 
in  the  case  of  certain  Teli-Banias  who  have  abandoned  oil- 
pressing  for  shop-keeping,  but  such  instances  are  very  rare  ; 
and  these  Tel  is  would  probably  now  assert  that  they  belonged 
to  the  Bania  caste.  That  the  Banias  are  recognised  as  a  dis- 
tinct caste  by  the  people  is  shown  by  the  number  of  uncom- 
plimentary proverbs  and  sayings  about  them,  which  is  far 
larger  than  in  the  case  of  any  other  caste.^  In  all  these  the 
name  Bania  is  used  and  not  that  of  any  subdivision,  and 
this  indicates  that  none  of  the  subdivisions  are  looked  upon 
as  distinctive  social  groups  or  castes.  Moreover,  so  far  as  I 
am  aware,  the  name  Bania  is  applied  regularly  to  all  the 
groups  usually  classified   under  the  caste,  and  there   is  no 

^  See  para.  19  below. 

II  BAN! A  it3 

group  which  objects  to  the  name  or  whose  members  refuse 
to  describe  themselves  by  it.  This  is  by  no  means  always 
the  case  with  other  important  castes.  The  Rathor  Telis  of 
Mandla  entirely  decline  to  answer  to  the  name  of  Teli, 
though  they  are  classified  under  that  caste.  In  the  case  of 
the  important  Ahir  or  grazier  caste,  those  who  sell  milk 
instead  of  grazing  cattle  are  called  Gaoli,  but  remain 
members  of  the  AhIr  caste.  An  AhIr  in  Chhattlsgarh  would 
be  called  Rawat  and  in  the  Maratha  Districts  Gowari,  but 
might  still  be  an  AhIr  by  caste.  The  Barai  caste  of  betel- 
vine  growers  and  sellers  is  in  some  localities  called  Tamboli 
and  not  Barai  ;  elsewhere  it  is  known  only  as  Pansari, 
though  the  name  Pansari  is  correctly  an  occupational  term, 
and,  where  it  is  not  applied  to  the  Barais,  means  a  grocer  or 
druggist  by  profession  and  not  a  caste.  Bania,  on  the  other 
hand,  over  the  greater  part  of  India  is  applied  only  to 
persons  who  acknowledge  themselves  and  are  generally  re- 
cognised by  Hindu  society  to  be  members  of  the  Bania  caste, 
and  there  is  no  other  name  which  is  generally  applied  to  any 
considerable  section  of  such  persons.  Certain  of  the  more 
important  subcastes  of  Bania,  as  the  Agarwala,  Oswal  and 
Parwar,  are,  it  is  true,  frequently  known  by  the  subcaste 
name.  But  the  caste  name  is  as  often  as  not,  or  even  more 
often,  affixed  to  it.  Agarwala,  or  Agarwala  Bania,  are  names 
equally  applied  to  designate  this  subcaste,  and  similarly  with 
the  Oswals  and  Parwars  ;  and  even  so  the  subcaste  name  is 
only  applied  for  greater  accuracy  and  for  compliment,  since 
these  are  the  best  subcastes  ;  the  Bania's  quarter  of  a  town 
will  be  called  Bania  Mahalla,  and  its  residents  spoken  of  as 
Banias,  even  though  they  may  be  nearly  all  Agarwrds  or 
Oswals.  Several  Rajput  clans  are  similarly  spoken  of  by  their 
clan  names,  as  Rathor,  Panwar,  and  so  on,  without  the  addition 
of  the  caste  name  Rajput.  Brahman  subcastes  are  usually 
mentioned  by  their  subcaste  name  for  greater  accuracy, 
though  in  their  case  too  it  is  usual  to  add  the  caste  name. 
And  there  are  subdivisions  of  other  castes,  such  as  the  Jaiswar 
Chamars  and  the  Somvansi  Mehras,  who  invariably  speak 
of  themselves  only  by  their  subcaste  name,  and  discard  the 
caste  name  altogether,  being  ashamed  of  it,  but  are  never- 
theless held  to  belong  to  their  parent  castes.  Thus  in  the 
VOL.  II  I 



3.  Their 

4.  Their 



matter  of  common  usage  Bania  conforms  in  all   respects  to 
the  requirements  of  a  proper  caste  name. 

The  Banias  have  also  a  distinct  and  well  -  defined 
traditional  occupation/  which  is  followed  by  many  or  most 
members  of  practically  every  subcaste  so  far  as  has  been 
observed.  This  occupation  has  caused  the  caste  as  a  body 
to  be  credited  with  special  mental  and  moral  characteristics 
in  popular  estimation,  to  a  greater  extent  perhaps  than  any 
other  caste.  None  of  the  subcastes  are  ashamed  of  their 
traditional  occupation  or  try  to  abandon  it.  It  is  true  that 
a  few  subcastes  such  as  the  Kasaundhans  and  Kasarwanis, 
sellers  of  metal  vessels,  apparently  had  originally  a  some- 
what different  profession,  though  resembling  the  traditional 
one ;  but  they  too,  if  they  once  only  sold  vessels,  now 
engage  largely  in  the  traditional  Bania's  calling,  and  deal 
generally  in  grain  and  money.  The  Banias,  no  doubt 
because  it  is  both  profitable  and  respectable,  adhere  more 
generally  to  their  traditional  occupation  than  almost  any 
great  caste,  except  the  cultivators.  Mr.  Marten's  analysis  ^ 
of  the  occupations  of  different  castes  shows  that  sixty  per 
cent  of  the  Banias  are  still  engaged  in  trade  ;  while  only 
nineteen  per  cent  of  Brahmans  follow  a  religious  calling  ; 
twenty-nine  per  cent  of  Ahirs  are  graziers,  cattle-dealers  or 
milkmen  ;  only  nine  per  cent  of  Telis  are  engaged  in  all 
branches  of  industry,  including  their  traditional  occupation 
of  oil  -  pressing ;  and  similarly  only  twelve  per  cent  of 
Chamars  work  at  industrial  occupations,  including  that  of 
curing  hides.  In  respect  of  occupation  therefore  the  Banias 
strictly  fulfil  the  definition  of  a  caste. 

The  Banias  have  also  a  distinctive  social  status.  They 
are  considered,  though  perhaps  incorrectly,  to  represent  the 
Vaishyas  or  third  great  division  of  the  Aryan  twice-born  ; 
they  rank  just  below  Rajputs  and  perhaps  above  all  other 
castes  except  Brahmans  ;  Brahmans  will  take  food  cooked 
without  water  from  many  Banias  and  drinking-water  from 
all.  Nearly  all  Banias  wear  the  sacred  thread  ;  and  the 
Banias  are  distinguished  by  the  fact  that  they  abstain  more 
rigorously   and   generally  from  all   kinds   of  flesh   food  than 

*  See  commencement  of  article.  pation    Chapter,    Subsidiary    Table   I. 

2  C.P.  Census  Report  (191 1),  Occu-       p.  234. 


any  other  caste.  Their  rules  as  to  diet  are  exceptionally 
strict,  and  are  equally  observed  by  the  great  majority  of  the 

Thus   the   Banias   apparently   fulfil    the   definition   of  a  5.  The 
caste,  as  consisting:  of  one  or  more  endoiramous  rroups  or  '="'^'"K''^" 

'  *^  fc>  &         r  mous 

subcastes  with  a  distinct  name  applied  to  them  all  and  to  divisions  of 
them  only,  a  distinctive  occupation  and  a  distinctive  social  ^  *"  ^"'^^' 
status  ;  and  there  seems  no  reason  for  not  considering  them 
a  caste.  If  on  the  other  hand  we  examine  the  subcastes 
of  Bania  we  find  that  the  majority  of  them  have  names 
derived  from  places,^  not  indicating  any  separate  origin, 
occupation  or  status,  but  only  residence  in  separate  tracts. 
Such  divisions  are  properly  termed  subcastes,  being  endoga- 
mous  only,  and  in  no  other  way  distinctive.  No  subcaste 
can  be  markedly  distinguished  from  the  others  in  respect 
of  occupation  or  social  status,  and  none  apparently  can 
therefore  be  classified  as  a  separate  caste.  There  are  no 
doubt  substantial  differences  in  status  between  the  highest 
subcastes  of  Bania,  the  Agarwals,  Oswals  and  Parwars,  and 
the  lower  ones,  the  Kasaundhan,  Kasarwani,  Dosar  and 
others.  But  this  diflference  is  not  so  great  as  that  which 
separates  different  groups  included  in  such  important  castes 
as  Rajput  and  Bhat.  It  is  true  again  that  subcastes  like 
the  Agarwals  and  Oswals  are  individually  important,  but 
not  more  so  than  the  Maratha,  Khedawal,  Kanaujia  and 
Maithil  Brahmans,  or  the  Sesodia,  Rathor,  Panwar  and 
Jadon  Rajputs.  The  higher  subcastes  of  Bania  themselves 
recognise  a  common  relationship  by  taking  food  cooked 
without  water  from  each  other,  which  is  a  very  rare  custom 
among  subcastes.  Some  of  them  are  even  said  to  have 
intermarried.  If  on  the  other  hand  it  is  argued,  not  that 
two  or  three  or  more  of  the  important  subdivisions  should 
be  erected  into  independent  castes,  but  that  Bania  is  not  a 
caste  at  all,  and  that  every  subcaste  should  be  treated  as  a 
separate  caste,  then  such  purely  local  groups  as  Kanaujia, 
Jaiswar,  Gujarati,  Jaunpuri  and  others,  which  are  found  in 
forty  or  fifty  other  castes,  would  have  to  become  separate 

1  For  examples,  the  subordinate  basi,  and  Srimali  may  be  consulted, 
articles  on  Agarwal,  Oswal,  Maheshri,  The  census  lists  contain  numerous  other 
Khandelwal,   Lad,  Agrahari,  Ajudhia-       territorial  names. 

ii6  BAN  I  A  PART 

castes  ;  and  if  in  this  one  case  why  not  in  all  the  other 
castes  where  they  occur  ?  This  would  result  in  the  im- 
possible position  of  having  forty  or  fifty  castes  of  the  same 
name,  which  recognise  no  connection  of  any  kind  with  each 
other,  and  make  any  arrangement  or  classification  of  castes 
altogether  impracticable.  And  in  191  i  out  of  200,000 
Banias  in  the  Central  Provinces,  43,000  were  returned  with 
no  subcaste  at  all,  and  it  would  therefore  be  impossible  to 
classify  these  under  any  other  name. 

The  Banias  have  been  commonly  supposed  to  represent 
the  Vaishyas  or  third  of  the  four  classical  castes,  both  by 
Hindu  society  generally  and  by  leading  authorities  on  the 
subject.  It  is  perhaps  this  view  of  their  origin  which  is 
partly  responsible  for  the  tendency  to  consider  them  as 
several  castes  and  not  one.  But  its  accuracy  is  doubtful. 
The  important  Bania  groups  appear  to  be  of  Rajput  stock. 
They  nearly  all  -come  from  Rajputana,  Bundelkhand  or 
Gujarat,  that  is  from  the  homes  of  the  principal  Rajput 
clans.  Several  of  them  have  legends  of  Rajput  descent. 
The  Agarwalas  say  that  their  first  ancestor  was  a  Kshatriya 
king,  who  married  a  Naga  or  snake  princess  ;  the  Naga  race 
is  supposed  to  have  signified  the  Scythian  immigrants,  who 
were  snake- worshippers  and  from  whom  several  clans  of 
Rajputs  were  probably  derived.  The  Agarwalas  took  their 
name  from  the  ancient  city  of  Agroha  or  possibly  from  Agra. 
The  Oswals  say  that  their  ancestor  was  the  Rajput  king  of 
Osnagar  in  Marwar,  who  with  his  followers  was  converted 
by  a  Jain  mendicant.  The  Nemas  state  that  their  ancestors 
were  fourteen  young  Rajput  princes  who  escaped  the 
vengeance  of  Parasurama  by  abandoning  the  profession  of 
arms  and  taking  to  trade.  The  Khandelwals  take  their 
name  from  the  town  of  Khandela  in  Jaipur  State  of 
Rajputana.  The  Kasarwanis  say  they  immigrated  from 
Kara  Manikpur  in  Bundelkhand.  The  origin  of  the  Umre 
Banias  is  not  known,  but  in  Gujarat  they  are  also  called 
Bagaria  from  the  Bagar  or  wild  country  of  the  Dongarpur 
and  Pertabgarh  States  of  Rajputana,  where  numbers  of  them 
arc  still  settled  ;  the  name  Bagaria  would  appear  to  indicate 
that  they  are  supposed  to  have  immigrated  thence  into 
Gujarat.      The  Dhusar  Banias  ascribe  their  name  to  a  hill 

Bt^;irose,  Couj..   Dt:)by. 



called  Dhusi  or  Dhosi  on  the  border  of  Alwar  State.  The 
Asfitis  say  that  their  original  home  was  Tikamgarh  State 
in  Bundelkhand.  The  name  of  the  Maheshris  is  held  to 
be  derived  from  Maheshwar,  an  ancient  town  on  the  Ner- 
budda,  near  Indore,  which  is  traditionally  supposed  to  have 
been  the  earliest  settlement  of  the  Yadava  Rajputs.  The 
headquarters  of  the  Gahoi  Banias  is  said  to  have  been  at 
Kharagpur  in  Bundelkhand,  though  according  to  their  own 
legend  they  are  of  mixed  origin.  The  home  of  the  Srimalis 
was  the  old  town  of  Srimal,  now  Bhinmal  in  Marwar.  The 
Palliwal  Banias  were  from  the  well-known  trading  town  of 
Pali  in  Marwar.  The  Jaiswal  are  said  to  take  their  name 
from  Jaisalmer  State,  which  was  their  native  country.  The 
above  are  no  doubt  only  a  fraction  of  the  Bania  subcastes, 
but  they  include  nearly  all  the  most  important  and  re- 
presentative ones,  from  whom  the  caste  takes  its  status  and 
character.  Of  the  numerous  other  groups  the  bulk  have 
probably  been  brought  into  existence  through  the  migration 
and  settlement  of  sections  of  the  caste  in  dafferent  parts  of 
the  country,  where  they  have  become  endogamous  and 
obtained  a  fresh  name.  Other  subcastes  may  be  composed 
of  bodies  of  persons  who,  having  taken  to  trade  and 
prospered,  obtained  admission  to  the  Bania  caste  through  the 
efforts  of  their  Brahman  priests.  But  a  number  of  mixed 
groups  of  the  same  character  are  also  found  among  the  Brah- 
mans  and  Rajputs,  and  their  existence  does  not  invalidate 
arguments  derived  from  a  consideration  of  the  representative 
subcastes.  It  may  be  said  that  not  only  the  Banias,  but 
many  of  the  low  castes  have  legends  showing  them  to  be  of 
Rajput  descent  of  the  same  character  as  those  quoted  above  ; 
and  since  in  their  case  these  stories  have  been  adjudged 
spurious  and  worthless,  no  greater  importance  should  be 
attached  to  those  of  the  Banias.  But  it  must  be  remembered 
that  in  the  case  of  the  Banias  the  stories  are  reinforced  by 
the  fact  that  the  Bania  subcastes  certainly  come  from 
Rajputana  ;  no  doubt  exists  that  they  are  of  high  caste,  and 
that  they  must  either  be  derived  from  Brahmans  or  Rajputs, 
or  themselves  represent  some  separate  foreign  group  ;  but  if 
they  are  really  the  descendants  of  the  Vaishyas,  the  main  body 
of  the  Aryan  immigrants  and  the  third  of  the  four  classical 


castes,  It  might  be  expected  that  their  legends  would  show 
some  trace  of  this  instead  of  being  unitedly  in  favour  of 
their  Rajput  origin. 

Colonel  Tod  gives  a  catalogue  of  the  eighty -four 
mercantile  tribes,  whom  he  states  to  be  chiefly  of  Rajput 
descent.^  In  this  list  the  Agarwal,  Oswal,  Srimal, 
Khandelwal,  Palliwal  and  Lad  subcastes  occur  ;  while  the 
Dhakar  and  Dhusar  subcastes  may  be  represented  by  the 
names  Dhakarwal  and  Dusora  in  the  lists.  The  other 
names  given  by  Tod  appear  to  be  mainly  small  territorial 
groups  of  Rajputana.  Elsewhere,  after  speaking  of  the 
claims  of  certain  towns  in  Rajputana  to  be  centres  of  trade, 
Colonel  Tod  remarks :  "  These  pretensions  we  may  the  more 
readily  admit,  when  we  recollect  that  nine-tenths  of  the 
bankers  and  commercial  men  of  India  are  natives  of 
Marudesh,''  and  these  chiefly  of  the  Jain  faith.  The  Oswals, 
so  termed  from  the  town  of  Osi,  near  the  Luni,  estimate 
one  hundred  thousand  families  whose  occupation  is  com- 
merce. All  these  claim  a  Rajput  descent,  a  fact  entirely 
unknown  to  the  European  inquirer  into  the  peculiarities  of 
Hindu  manners."  ^ 

Similarly,  Sir  D.  Ibbetson  states  that  the  Maheshri 
Banias  claim  Rajput  origin  and  still  have  subdivisions 
bearing  Rajput  names.^  Elliot  also  says  that  almost  all  the 
mercantile  tribes  of  Hindustan  are  of  Rajput  descent.^ 

It  would  appear,  then,  that  the  Banias  are  an  offshoot 
from  the  Rajputs,  who  took  to  commerce  and  learnt  to  read 
and  write  for  the  purpose  of  keeping  accounts.  The  Charans 
or  bards  are  another  literate  caste  derived  from  the  Rajputs, 
and  it  may  be  noticed  that  both  the  Banias  and  Charans  or 
Bhats  have  hitherto  been  content  with  the  knowledge  of  their 
own  rude  Marwari  dialect  and  evinced  no  desire  for  classical 
learning  or  higher  English  education.  Matters  are  now 
changing,  but  this  attitude  shows  that  they  have  hitherto  not 
desired  education  for  itself  but  merely  as  an  indispensable 
adjunct  to  their  business. 

Being  literate,  the  Banias  were  not  infrequently  employed 

^   Kajaslhdn,  i.  pp.  76,  109.  '^  Rajasthan,  ii.  p.   145. 

^  That  is  Marwar.      But  perhaps  the  •*  Punjab   Censjts  Report  {1881),  p. 

term  here  is  used  in  the  wider  sense  of  293. 

Rajputana.  ''  Supplemental  Glossary,  p.   no. 

II  sun  CASTES  119 

as  ministers  and  treasurers  in  Rajput  states.  Forbes  says,  7.  Hanias 
in  an  account  of  an  Indian  court :  "  Beside  the  king  stand  the  asminfslcrs 
warriors  of  Rajput  race  or,  equally  gallant  in  the  field  and  i"  Kfijput 
wiser  far  in  council,  the  Wania  (Bania)  Muntreshwars, 
already  in  profession  puritans  of  peace,  and  not  yet  drained 
enough  of  their  fiery  Kshatriya  blood.  ...  It  is  remark- 
able that  so  many  of  the  officers  possessing  high  rank  and 
holding  independent  commands  are  represented  to  have 
been  Wanias,"  ^  Colonel  Tod  writes  that  Nunkurn,  the 
Kachhwaha  chief  of  the  Shekhawat  federation,  had  a 
minister  named  Devi  Das  of  the  Bania  or  mercantile  caste, 
and,  like  thousands  of  that  caste,  energetic,  shrewd  and 
intelligent."  Similarly,  Muhaj,  the  Jadon  Bhatti  chief  of 
Jaisalmer,  by  an  unhappy  choice  of  a  Bania  minister,  com- 
pleted the  demoralisation  of  the  Bhatti  state.  This  minister 
was  named  Sarup  Singh,  a  Bania  of  the  Jain  faith  and  Mehta 
family,  whose  descendants  were  destined  to  be  the  ex- 
terminators of  the  laws  and  fortunes  of  the  sons  of  Jaisal.^ 
Other  instances  of  the  employment  of  Bania  ministers  are  to 
be  found  in  Rajput  history.  Finally,  it  may  be  noted  that 
the  Banias  are  by  no  means  the  only  instance  of  a  mercantile 
class  formed  from  the  Rajputs.  The  two  important  trading 
castes  of  Khatri  and  Bhatia  are  almost  certainly  of  Rajput 
origin,  as  is  shown  in  the  articles  on  those  castes. 

The  Banias  are  divided  into  a  large  number  of  endo-  8.  Sub- 
gamous  groups  or  subcastes,  of  which  the  most  important 
have  been  treated  in  the  annexed  subordinate  articles.  The 
minor  subcastes,  mainly  formed  by  migration,  vary  greatly  in 
different  provinces.  Colonel  Tod  gave  a  list  of  eighty-four 
in  Rajputana,  of  which  eight  or  ten  only  can  be  identified  in 
the  Central  Provinces,  and  of  thirty  mentioned  by  Bhatta- 
charya  as  the  most  common  groups  in  northern  India,  about 
a  third  are  unknown  in  the  Central  Provinces.  The  origin 
of  such  subcastes  has  already  been  explained.  The  main 
subcastes  may  be  classified  roughly  into  groups  coming  from 
Rajputana,  Bundelkhand  and  the  United  Provinces.  The 
leading  Rajputana  groups  are  the  Oswal,  Maheshri,  Khandel- 
wal,  Saitwal,  Srimal  and  Jaiswal.      These   groups   are  com- 

^   J\ds?Hala,  i.  pp.  240,  243. 
2  Riljasthan,  ii.  p.  360.  2  Jbid.  ii.  p.  240. 


monly  known  as  Marwari  Bania  or  simply  Marwari.  The 
Bundelkhand  or  Central  India  subcastes  are  the  Gahoi, 
Golapurab,  Asati,  Umre  and  Parwar ;  ^  while  the  Agarwal, 
Dhusar,  Agrahari,  Ajudhiabasi  and  others  come  from  the 
United  Provinces.  The  Lad  subcaste  is  from  Gujarat, 
while  the  Lingayats  originally  belonged  to  the  Telugu  and 
Canarese  country.  Several  of  the  subcastes  coming  from 
the  same  locality  will  take  food  cooked  without  water  from 
each  other,  and  occasionally  two  subcastes,  as  the  Oswal  and 
Khandelwal,  even  food  cooked  with  water  or  katcJii.  This 
practice  is  seldom  found  in  other  good  castes.  It  is  prob- 
ably due  to  the  fact  that  the  rules  about  food  are  less 
strictly  observed  in  Rajputana. 

Another  classification  may  be  made  of  the  subcastes 
according  as  they  are  of  the  Hindu  or  Jain  religion  ;  the 
important  Jain  subcastes  are  the  Oswal,  Parwar,  Golapurab, 
Saitwal  and  Charnagar,  and  one  or  two  smaller  ones,  as  the 
Baghelwal  and  Samaiya.  The  other  subcastes  are  prin- 
cipally Hindu,  but  many  have  a  Jain  minority,  and  similarly 
the  Jain  subcastes  return  a  proportion  of  Hindus.  The 
difference  of  religion  counts  for  very  little,  as  practically  all 
the  non-Jain  Banias  are  strict  Vaishnava  Hindus,  abstain 
entirely  from  any  kind  of  flesh  meat,  and  think  it  a  sin 
to  take  animal  life  ;  while  on  their  side  the  Jains  employ 
Brahmans  for  certain  purposes,  worship  some  of  the  local 
Hindu  deities,  and  observe  the  principal  Hindu  festivals. 
The  Jain  and  Hindu  sections  of  a  subcaste  have  conse- 
quently, as  a  rule,  no  objection  to  taking  food  together,  and 
will  sometimes  intermarry.  Several  of  the  important  sub- 
castes are  subdivided  into  Bisa  and  Dasa,  or  twenty  and  ten 
groups.  The  Bisa  or  twenty  group  is  of  pure  descent,  or 
twenty  carat,  as  it  were,  while  the  Dasas  are  considered 
to  have  a  certain  amount  of  alloy  in  their  family  pedigree. 
They  are  the  offspring  of  remarried  widows,  and  perhaps 
occasionally  of  still  more  irregular  unions.  Intermarriage 
sometimes  takes  place  between  the  two  groups,  and  families 
in  the  Dasa  group,  by  living  a  respectable  life  and  marrying 
well,  improve  their  status,  and   perhaps  ultimately  get  back 

'  The  Parwars  probably  belonged  originally  to  Rajputana  ;   see  subordinate 


into  the  Bisa  group.  As  the  Dasas  become  more  respectable 
they  will  not  admit  to  their  communion  newly  remarried 
widows  or  couples  who  have  married  within  the  prohibited 
degrees,  or  otherwise  made  a  incsalliance,  and  hence  a  third 
inferior  group,  called  the  Pacha  or  five,  is  brought  into 
existence  to  make  room  for  these. 

Most  subcastes  have  an   elaborate  system  of  exogamy.  10.  Exo- 
Thcy  are   either  divided    into   a  large  number  of  sections,  f^ie^  ^" 
or  into  a  i^w  gotras,  usually  twelve,  each  of  which  is  further  regulating 
split  up  into  subsections.      Marriage  can   then  be  regulated  "^''''^'"'^se- 
by  forbidding  a   man  to  take  a  wife  from  the  whole  of  his 
own  section  or  from   the  subsection  of  his  mother,  grand- 
mothers and  even   greatgrandmothers.       By  this  means  the 
union  of  persons  within  five  or  more  degrees  of  relationship 
either  through  males  or  females  is  avoided,  and  most  Ijanias 
prohibit   intermarriage,    at   any    rate    nominally,   up   to   five 
degrees.       Such    practices    as     exchanging     girls     between 
families  or  marrying  two  sisters  are,  as  a  rule,  prohibited. 
The  gotras  or  main  sections  appear  to  be  frequently  named 
after  Brahman   Rishis  or  saints,  while  the  subsections  have 
names  of  a  territorial  or  titular  character. 

There  is  generally  no  recognised  custom  of  paying  a  n-  Mar- 
bride-  or  bridegroom -price,  but  one  or  two  instances  of  cusloms. 
its  being  done  are  given  in  the  subordinate  articles. 
On  the  occasion  of  betrothal,  among  some  subcastes,  the 
boy's  father  proceeds  to  the  girl's  house  and  presents  her 
with  a  vidla  or  necklace  of  gold  or  silver  coins  or  coral,  and 
a  muiidri  or  silver  ring  for  the  finger.  The  contract  of 
betrothal  is  made  at  the  village  temple  and  the  caste-fellows 
sprinkle  turmeric  and  water  over  the  parties.  Before  the 
wedding  the  ceremony  of  Benaiki  is  performed  ;  in  this  the 
bridegroom,  riding  on  a  horse,  and  the  bride  on  a  decorated 
chair  or  litter,  go  round  their  villages  and  say  farewell  to 
their  friends  and  relations.  Sometimes  they  have  a  pro- 
cession in  this  way  round  the  marriage-shed.  Among  the 
Marwari  Banias  a  toran  or  string  of  mango-leaves  is  stretched 
above  the  door  of  the  house  on  the  occasion  of  a  wedding 
and  left  there  for  six  months.  And  a  wooden  triangle  with 
figures  perched  on  it  to  represent  sparrows  is  tied  over 
the  door.      The  binding  portion  of  the  wedding  is  the  pro- 


cession  seven  times  round  the  marriage  altar  or  post.  In 
some  Jain  subcastes  the  bridegroom  stands  beside  the 
post  and  the  bride  walks  seven  times  round  him,  while 
he  throws  sugar  over  her  head  at  each  turn.  After  the 
wedding  the  couple  are  made  to  draw  figures  out  of  flour 
sprinkled  on  a  brass  plate  in  token  of  the  bridegroom's 
occupation  of  keeping  accounts.  It  is  customary  for  the 
bride's  family  to  give  sidha  or  uncooked  food  sufficient  for  a 
day's  consumption  to  every  outsider  who  accompanies  the 
marriage  party,  while  to  each  member  of  the  caste  pro- 
visions for  two  to  five  days  are  given.  This  is  in  addition 
to  the  evening  feasts  and  involves  great  expense.  Some- 
times the  wedding  lasts  for  eight  days,  and  feasts  are  given 
for  four  days  by  the  bridegroom's  party  and  four  days  by 
the  bride's.  It  is  said  that  in  some  places  before  a  Bania 
has  a  wedding  he  goes  before  the  caste  panchdyat  and  they 
ask  him  how  many  people  he  is  going  to  invite.  If  he  says 
five  hundred,  they  prescribe  the  quantity  of  the  different 
kinds  of  provisions  which  he  must  supply.  Thus  they  may 
say  forty  maunds  (3 200  lbs.)  of  sugar  and  flour,  with  butter, 
spices,  and  other  articles  in  proportion.  He  says,  '  Gentle- 
men, I  am  a  poor  man  ;  make  it  a  little  less '  ;  or  he  says 
he  will  give  gur  or  cakes  of  raw  cane  sugar  instead  of 
refined  sugar.  Then  they  say,  '  No,  your  social  position  is 
too  high  for  gur  ;  you  must  have  sugar  for  all  purposes.' 
The  more  guests  the  host  invites  the  higher  is  his  social 
consideration  ;  and  it  is  said  that  if  he  does  not  maintain 
this  his  life  is  not  worth  living.  Sometimes  the  exact 
amount  of  entertainment  to  be  given  at  a  wedding  is  fixed, 
and  if  a  man  cannot  afford  it  at  the  time  he  must  give  the 
balance  of  the  feasts  at  any  subsequent  period  when  he  has 
money  ;  and  if  he  fails  to  do  this  he  is  put  out  of  caste. 
The  bride's  father  is  often  called  on  to  furnish  a  certain  sum 
for  the  travelling  expenses  of  the  bridegroom's  party,  and  if 
he  does  not  send  this  money  they  do  not  come.  The  dis- 
tinctive feature  of  a  Bania  wedding  in  the  northern  Districts 
is  that  women  accompany  the  marriage  procession,  and  the 
Banias  are  the  only  high  caste  in  which  they  do  this. 
Hence  a  high-caste  wedding  party  in  which  women  are 
present  can  be  recognised  to  be  a  Bania's.      In  the  Maratha 


Districts  women  also  go,  but  here  this  custom  obtains  among 
other  high  castes.  The  bridegroom's  party  hire  or  borrow  a 
house  in  the  bride's  village,  and  here  they  erect  a  marriage- 
shed  and  go  through  the  preliminary  ceremonies  of  the 
wedding  on  the  bridegroom's  side  as  if  they  were  at  home. 

Polygamy    is    very    rare    among    the    Banias,   and    it    is  12.  Poiy- 
generally  the   rule   that   a   man    must   obtain  the  consent  of  ^tdow^" 
his  first  wife  before  taking  a  second  one.      In  the  absence  of  marriage, 
this  precaution  for  her  happiness,  parents  will  refuse  to  give 
him  their  daughter.      The  remarriage  of  widows  is  nominally 
prohibited,  but  frequently  occurs,  and   remarried  widows  are 
relegated   to   the   inferior  social   groups   in  each  subcaste  as 
already  described.      Divorce    is   also  said   to   be   prohibited, 
but   it  is  probable  that   women   put   away  for   adultery  are 
allowed  to  take  refuge  in  such  groups  instead  of  being  finally 

The  dead    are   cremated   as   a   rule,   and    the    ashes    are  13.  Dis- 
thrown  into  a  sacred  river  or  any  stream.      The   bodies   of  fj^g'^^g^^i 
young  children  and   of  persons  dying  from  epidemic  disease  and 
are  buried.      The  period  of  mourning  must  be  for  an  odd  '""^'""'"S- 
number  of  days.      On  the  third  day  a  leaf  plate  with  cooked 
food  is  placed  on  the  ground  where  the  body  was  burnt,  and 
on  some  subsequent  day  a  feast  is  given  to  the  caste.      Rich 
Banias  will  hire  people  to  mourn.     Widows  and  young  girls 
are  usually  employed,  and   these  come  and   sit  before  the 
house  for  an  hour  in  the  morning  and  sometimes  also  in  the 
evening,  and  covering  their  heads  with  their  cloths,  beat  their 
breasts    and    make    lamentations.      Rich    men    may  hire    as 
many  as   ten   mourners   for   a   period    of  one,  two   or   three 
months.       The    Marwaris,   when   a   girl    is    born,    break    an 
earthen   pot  to  show  that  they  have  had  a  misfortune  ;  but 
when  a  boy  is  born   they  beat   a  brass   plate   in   token   of 
their  joy. 

Nearly  all   the   Banias   are  Jains   or  Vaishnava  Hindus.  14.  Reii- 
An  account  of  the  Jain  religion  has  been  given  in  a  separate  |o°^G^n^ 
article,  and  some  notice  of  the  retention  of  Hindu  practices  pati  or 
by  the  Jains  is  contained  in  the  subordinate  article  on  Parwar 
Bania.      The  Vaishnava  Banias   no   less   than   the  Jains   are 
strongly  averse  to  the  destruction  of  animal  life,  and  will  not 
kill  any  living  thing.     Their  principal  deity  is  the  god  Ganesh 

124  BAN  I  A  PART 

or  Ganpati,  the  son  of  Mahadeo  and  Parvati,  who  is  the  god 
of  good-luck,  wealth  and  prosperity.  Ganesh  is  represented 
in  sculpture  with  the  head  of  an  elephant  and  riding  on  a 
rat,  though  the  rat  is  now  covered  by  the  body  of  the  god 
and  is  scarcely  visible.  He  has  a  small  body  like  a  child's 
with  a  fat  belly  and  round  plump  arms.  Perhaps  his  body 
signifies  that  he  is  figured  as  a  boy,  the  son  of  Parvati  or 
Gauri.  In  former  times  grain  was  the  main  source  of  wealth, 
and  from  the  appearance  of  Ganesh  it  can  be  understood 
why  he  is  the  god  of  overflowing  granaries,  and  hence  of 
wealth  and  good  fortune.  The  elephant  is  a  sacred  animal 
among  Hindus,  and  that  on  which  the  king  rides.  To  have 
an  elephant  was  a  mark  of  wealth  and  distinction  among 
Banias,  and  the  Jains  harness  the  cars  of  their  gods  to 
elephants  at  their  great  rath  or  chariot  festival.  Gajpati  or 
'  lord  of  elephants '  is  a  title  given  to  a  king  ;  Gajanand  or 
'  elephant -faced '  is  an  epithet  of  the  god  Ganesh  and  a 
favourite  Hindu  name.  Gajvlthi  or  the  track  of  the  elephant 
is  a  name  of  the  Milky  Way,  and  indicates  that  there  is 
believed  to  be  a  divine  elephant  who  takes  this  course 
through  the  heavens.  The  elephant  eats  so  much  grain  that 
only  a  comparatively  rich  man  can  afford  to  keep  one  ;  and 
hence  it  is  easy  to  understand  how  the  attribute  of  plenty  or 
of  wealth  was  associated  with  the  divine  elephant  as  his 
special  characteristic.  Similarly  the  rat  is  connected  with 
overflowing  granaries,  because  when  there  is  much  corn  in  a 
Hindu  house  or  store-shed  there  will  be  many  rats  ;  thus  a 
multitude  of  rats  implied  a  rich  household,  and  so  this  animal 
too  came  to  be  a  symbol  of  wealth.  The  Hindus  do  not  now 
consider  the  rat  sacred,  but  they  have  a  tenderness  for  it, 
especially  in  the  Maratha  country.  The  more  bigoted  of 
them  objected  to  rats  being  poisoned  as  a  means  of  checking 
plague,  though  observation  has  fully  convinced  them  that 
rats  spread  the  plague  ;  and  in  the  Bania  hospitals,  formerly 
maintained  for  preserving  the  lives  of  animals,  a  number  of 
rats  were  usually  to  be  found.  The  rat,  in  fact,  may  now  be 
said  to  stand  to  Ganpati  in  the  position  of  a  disreputable 
poor  relation.  No  attempt  is  made  to  deny  his  existence, 
but  he  is  kept  in  the  background  as  far  as  possible.  The  god 
Ganpati  is  also  associated  with  wealth  of  grain  through  his 


parentage.  He  is  the  offspring  of  Siva  or  Mahadco  and  his 
wife  Devi  or  Gauri.  Mahadeo  is  in  this  case  probably  taken 
in  his  beneficent  cliaracter  of  the  deified  bull  ;  Devi  in  her 
most  important  aspect  as  the  great  mother-goddess  is  the 
earth,  but  as  mother  of  Ganesh  she  is  probably  imagined  in 
her  special  form  of  Gauri,  the  yellow  one,  that  is,  the  yellow 
corn.  Gauri  is  closely  associated  with  Ganesh,  and  every 
Hindu  bridal  couple  worship  Gauri  Ganesh  together  as  an 
important  rite  of  the  wedding.  Their  conjunction  in  this 
manner  lends  colour  to  the  idea  that  they  are  held  to  be 
mother  and  son.  In  Rajputana  Gauri  is  worshipped  as  the 
corn  goddess  at  the  Gangore  festival  about  the  time  of  the 
vernal  equinox,  especially  by  women.  The  meaning  of 
Gauri,  Colonel  Tod  states,  is  yellow,  emblematic  of  the 
ripened  harvest,  when  the  votaries  of  the  goddess  adore  her 
effigies,  in  the  shape  of  a  matron  painted  the  colour  of 
ripe  corn.  Here  she  is  seen  as  Ana-purna  (the  corn-goddess), 
the  benefactress  of  mankind.  "  The  rites  commence  when 
the  sun  enters  Aries  (the  opening  of  the  Hindu  year),  by  a 
deputation  to  a  spot  beyond  the  city  to  bring  earth  for  the 
image  of  Gauri.  A  small  trench  is  then  excavated  in  which 
barley  is  sown  ;  the  ground  is  irrigated  and  artificial  heat 
supplied  till  the  grain  germinates,  when  the  females  join 
hands  and  dance  round  it,  invoking  the  blessings  of  Gauri 
on  their  husbands.  The  young  corn  is  then  taken  up,  dis- 
tributed and  presented  by  the  females  to  the  men,  who  wear 
it  in  their  turbans."  ^  Thus  if  Ganesh  is  the  son  of  Gauri  he 
is  the  offspring  of  the  bull  and  the  growing  corn  ;  and  his 
genesis  from  the  elephant  and  the  rat  show  him  equally  as 
the  god  of  full  granaries,  and  hence  of  wealth  and  good 
fortune.  We  can  understand  therefore  how  he  is  the  special 
god  of  the  Banias,  who  formerly  must  have  dealt  almost 
entirely  in  grain,  as  coined  money  had  not  come  into 
general  use. 

At  the   Diwali  festival  the  Banias  worship  Ganpati   or  15.  Diwaii 
Ganesh,  in  conjunction  with  Lakshmi,  the  goddess  of  wealth. 
Lakshmi  is  considered  to  be  the  deified   cow,  and,  as  such, 
the  other  main  source  of  wealth,  both  as  mother  of  the  bull, 
the  tiller  of  the  soil,  and   the  giver  of  milk  from  which  ghl 

1   RdjasthiDi,  i.  p.  491. 



(clarified  butter)  is  made ;  this  is  another  staple  of  the 
Bania's  trade,  as  well  as  a  luxurious  food,  of  which  he  is 
especially  fond.  At  Diwali  all  Banias  make  up  their 
accounts  for  the  year,  and  obtain  the  signatures  of  clients 
to  their  balances.  They  open  fresh  account-books,  which 
they  first  worship  and  adorn  with  an  image  of  Ganesh,  and 
perhaps  an  invocation  to  the  god  on  the  front  page.  A 
silver  rupee  is  also  worshipped  as  an  emblem  of  Lakshmi, 
but  in  some  cases  an  English  sovereign,  as  a  more  precious 
coin,  has  been  substituted,  and  this  is  placed  on  the  seat 
of  the  goddess  and  reverence  paid  to  it.  The  Banias  and 
Hindus  generally  think  it  requisite  to  gamble  at  Diwali  in 
order  to  bring  good  luck  during  the  coming  year ;  all 
classes  indulge  in  a  little  speculation  at  this  season. 

In  the  month  of  Phagun  (February),  about  the  time  of 
the  Holi,  the  Marwaris  make  an  image  of  mud  naked, 
calling  it  Nathu  Ram,  who  was  supposed  to  be  a  great 
Marwari.  They  mock  at  this  and  throw  mud  at  it,  and 
beat  it  with  shoes,  and  have  various  jests  and  sports.  The 
men  and  women  are  divided  into  two  parties,  and  throw 
dirty  water  and  red  powder  over  each  other,  and  the  women 
make  whips  of  cloth  and  beat  the  men.  After  two  or  three 
days,  they  break  up  the  image  and  throw  it  away.  The 
Banias,  both  Jain  and  Hindu,  like  to  begin  the  day  by 
going  and  looking  at  the  god  in  his  temple.  This  is  con- 
sidered an  auspicious  omen  in  the  same  manner  as  it  is 
commonly  held  to  be  a  good  omen  to  see  some  particular 
person  or  class  of  person  the  first  thing  in  the  morning. 
Others  begin  the  day  by  worshipping  the  sacred  Udsi  or 

The  Banias  arc  very  strict  about  food.  The  majority 
of  them  abstain  from  all  kinds  of  flesh  food  and  alcoholic 
liquor.  The  Kasarwanis  are  reported  to  eat  the  flesh  of 
clean  animals,  and  perhaps  others  of  the  lower  subcastes 
may  also  do  so,  but  the  Banias  are  probably  stricter  than 
any  other  caste  in  their  adherence  to  a  vegetable  diet. 
Many  of  them  eschew  also  onions  and  garlic  as  impure 
food.  Banias  take  the  lead  in  the  objection  to  foreign 
sugar  on  account  of  the  stories  told  of  the  impure  ingredients 
which  it  contains,  and   many  of  them,  until   recently,  at  any 

Bemrose.  Colic,  Derby. 



rate,  still  adhered  to  Indian  sugar.  Drugs  arc  not  forbidden, 
but  they  are  not  usually  addicted  to  them.  Tobacco  is 
forbidden  to  the  Jains,  but  both  they  and  the  Hindus  smoke, 
and  their  women  sometimes  chew  tobacco.  The  Bania 
while  he  is  poor  is  very  abstemious,  and  it  is  said  that  on 
a  day  when  he  has  made  no  money  he  goes  supperless  to 
bed.  But  when  he  has  accumulated  wealth,  he  develops 
a  fondness  for  ghl  or  preserved  butter,  which  often  causes 
him  to  become  portly.  Otherwise  his  food  remains  simple, 
and  as  a  rule  he  confined  himself  until  recently  to  two  daily 
meals,  at  midday  and  in  the  evening  ;  but  Banias,  like  most 
other  classes  who  can  afford  it,  have  now  begun  to  drink 
tea  in  the  morning.  In  dress  the  Bania  is  also  simple, 
adhering  to  the  orthodox  Hindu  garb  of  a  long  white  coat 
and  a  loin-cloth.  He  has  not  yet  adopted  the  cotton 
trousers  copied  from  the  English  fashion.  Some  Banias 
in  their  shops  wear  only  a  cloth  over  their  shoulders  and 
another  round  their  waist.  The  kardora  or  silver  waist- 
belt  is  a  favourite  Bania  ornament,  and  though  plainly 
dressed  in  ordinary  life,  rich  Marwaris  will  on  special  festival 
occasions  wear  costly  jewels.  On  his  head  the  Marwari 
wears  a  small  tightly  folded  turban,  often  coloured  crimson, 
pink  or  yellow  ;  a  green  turban  is  a  sign  of  mourning  and 
also  black,  though  the  latter  is  seldom  seen.  The  Banias 
object  to  taking  the  life  of  any  animal.  They  will  not 
castrate  cattle  even  through  their  servants,  but  sell  the 
young  bulls  and  buy  oxen.  In  Saugor,  a  Bania  is  put  out 
of  caste  if  he  keeps  buffaloes.  It  is  supposed  that  good 
Hindus  should  not  keep  buffaloes  nor  use  them  for  carting 
or  ploughing,  because  the  buffalo  is  impure,  and  is  the 
animal  on  which  Yama,  the  god  of  death,  rides.  Thus 
in  his  social  observances  generally  the  Bania  is  one  of  the 
strictest  castes,  and  this  is  a  reason  why  his  social  status  is 
high.  Sometimes  he  is  even  held  superior  to  the  Rajput, 
as  the  local  Rajputs  are  often  of  impure  descent  and  lax  in 
their  observance  of  religious  and  social  restrictions.  Though 
he  soon  learns  the  vernacular  language  of  the  country  where 
he  settles,  the  Marwari  usually  retains  his  own  native  dialect 
in  his  account-books,  and  this  makes  it  more  difficult  for 
his  customers  to  understand  them. 


The  Bania  has  a  very  distinctive  caste  character.      From 
early  boyhood  he  is  trained  to  the  keeping  of  accounts  and 
to  the  view  that  it  is   his  business   in  Hfe  to  make  money, 
and   that  no  transaction  should   be  considered   successful   or 
creditable  which  does   not  show  a  profit.      As  an  apprentice, 
he  goes  through  a  severe  training  in   mental   arithmetic,  so 
as  to  enable  him  to  make  the  most  intricate  calculations  in 
his  head.      With  this  object  a  boy  commits  to  memory  a 
number  of  very  elaborate   tables.      For  whole  numbers  he 
learns  by  heart  the  units  from  one  to  ten  multiplied  as  high 
as    forty   times,    and    the    numbers    from    eleven    to   twenty 
multiplied  to  twenty  times.     There  are  also  fractional  tables, 
giving  the  results  of  multiplying  \,  \,  |,  ij,  i|,  2\,  and  3^ 
into  units  from  one  to  one  hundred  ;  interest-tables  showing 
the    interest    due   on    any  sum   from  one    to  one   thousand 
rupees    for   one    month,  and    for   a  quarter  of  a  month  at 
twelve  per  cent ;  tables  of  the  squares  of  all  numbers  from 
one  to  one  hundred,  and   a  set  of  technical  rules  for  finding 
the  price  of  a  part  from  the   price  of  the  whole.^      The  self- 
denial  and  tenacity  which  enable  the  Bania  without  capital 
to  lay  the  foundations  of  a  business  are  also  remarkable. 
On  first  settling  in  a  new  locality,  a   Marwari   Bania  takes 
service  with  some  shopkeeper,  and  by  dint  of  the  strictest 
economy    puts    together   a    little    money.       Then    the    new 
trader    establishes    himself  in    some   village    and    begins    to 
make    grain    advances   to   the   cultivators   on   high   rates  of 
interest,   though   occasionally   on    bad    security.      He   opens 
a  shop  and   retails  grain,   pulses,  condiments,  spices,  sugar 
and   flour.      From  grain  he  gradually  passes  to  selling  cloth 
and    lending    money,    and    being    keen    and    exacting,    and 
having    to    deal    with    ignorant    and     illiterate    clients,    he 
acquires    wealth  ;    this    he    invests    in    purchasing    villages, 
and   after  a  time   blossoms   out   into   a   big  Seth   or  banker. 
The   liania  can  also  start  a  retail   business  without  capital. 
The  way   in  which  he  does    it  is  to  buy  a    rupee's   worth 
of  stock  in   a   town,  and   take  it  out  early  in   the  morning 
to   a    village,  where    he    sits    on    the    steps    of  the    temple 
until    he   has   sold    it.       Up   till    then    he    neither    eats    nor 
washes    his    face.       1  le    comes    back    in    the   evening  after 

1  Bombay  Gazetteer,  Hindus  of  Gttjariit,  p.  80. 


having  eaten  two  or  three  pice  worth  of  grain,  and  buys  a 
fresh  stocic,  whicli  he  takes  out  to  another  village  in  the 
morning.  Thus  he  turns  over  his  capital  with  a  profit  two 
or  three  times  a  week  according  to  the  saying,  "  If  a  Bania 
gets  a  rupee  he  will  have  an  income  of  eight  rupees  a 
month,"  or  as  another  proverb  pithily  sums  up  the  immigrant 
Marwfiri's  career,  '  He  comes  with  a  lota  ^  and  goes  back  with 
a  lakh.'  The  Bania  never  writes  off  debts,  even  though  his 
debtor  may  be  a  pauper,  but  goes  on  entering  them  up  year 
by  year  in  his  account-books  and  taking  the  debtor's  acknow- 
ledgment. For  he  says,  '  Ptirus  Pdnisl  or  man  is  like  the 
philosopher's  stone,  and  his  fortune  may  change  any  day. 

The  cultivators  rarely  get  fair  treatment  from  the  Banias,  19.  Dis- 
as  the  odds  are  too  much  against  them.      They  must  have  ''^^.o*^  ^^e 

o  -I  cultivators 

money  to  sow  their  land,  and  live  while  the  crops  are  towards 
growing,  and  the  majority  who  have  no  capital  are  at  the  '"^' 
moneylender's  mercy.  He  is  of  a  different  caste,  and  often 
of  a  different  country,  and  has  no  fellow-feeling  towards 
them,  and  therefore  considers  the  transaction  merely  from 
the  business  point  of  view  of  getting  as  much  profit  as 
possible.  The  debtors  are  illiterate,  often  not  even  under- 
standing the  meaning  of  figures,  or  the  result  of  paying 
compound  interest  at  twenty-five  or  fifty  per  cent  ;  they  can 
neither  keep  accounts  themselves  nor  check  their  creditor's. 
Hence  they  are  entirely  in  his  hands,  and  in  the  end  their 
villages  or  land,  if  saleable,  pass  to  him,  and  they  decline 
from  landlord  to  tenant,  or  from  tenant  to  labourer.  They 
have  found  vent  for  their  feelings  in  some  of  the  bitterest 
sayings  ever  current :  *  A  man  who  has  a  Bania  for  a  friend 
has  no  need  of  an  enemy.'  '  Borrow  from  a  Bania  and  you 
are  as  good  as  ruined.'  '  The  rogue  cheats  strangers  and 
the  Bania  cheats  his  friends.'  '  Kick  a  Bania  even  if  he  is 
dead.'  "  His  heart,  we  are  told,  is  no  bigger  than  a  coriander 
seed  ;  he  goes  in  Hke  a  needle  and  comes  out  like  a  sword  ; 
as  a  neighbour  he  is  as  bad  as  a  boil  in  the  armpit.  If  a 
Bania  is  on  the  other  side  of  a  river  you  should  leave  your 
bundle  on  this  side  for  fear  he  should  steal  it.  If  a  Bania 
is  drowning  you  should  not  give  him  your  hand  ;  he  is 
sure  to  have  some  pecuniary  motive  for  drifting  down-stream. 

^  The  common  brass  drinking-vessel, 
VOL.  II  K 



A  Bania  will  start  an  auction  in  a  desert.  If  a  Bania's  son 
tumbles  down  he  is  sure  to  pick  up  something.  He  uses 
light  weights  and  swears  that  the  scales  tip  up  of  themselves  ; 
he  keeps  his  accounts  in  a  character  that  no  one  but  God 
can  read  ;  if  you  borrow  from  him  your  debt  mounts  up  like 
a  refuse-heap  or  gallops  like  a  horse  ;  if  he  talks  to  a 
customer  he  debits  the  conversation  in  his  accounts  ;  and 
when  his  own  credit  is  shaky  he  writes  up  his  transactions  on 
the  wall  so  that  they  can  easily  be  rubbed  out."  ^ 
20.  His  Nevertheless  there  is  a  good  deal  to  be  said  on  the  other 

side,  and  the  Bania's  faults  are  probably  to  a  large  extent 
produced  by  his  environment,  like  other  people's.  One  of 
the  Bania's  virtues  is  that  he  will  lend  on  security  which 
neither  the  Government  nor  the  banks  would  look  at,  or  on 
none  at  all.  Then  he  will  always  wait  a  long  time  for  his 
money,  especially  if  the  interest  is  paid.  No  doubt  this  is 
no  loss  to  him,  as  he  keeps  his  money  out  at  good  interest ; 
but  it  is  a  great  convenience  to  a  client  that  his  debt  can  be 
postponed  in  a  bad  year,  and  that  he  can  pay  as  much  as 
he  likes  in  a  good  one.  The  village  moneylender  is  in- 
dispensable to  its  economy  when  the  tenants  are  like  school- 
boys in  that  money  burns  a  hole  in  their  pocket  ;  and  Sir 
Denzil  Ibbetson  states  that  it  is  surprising  how  much 
reasonableness  and  honesty  there  is  in  his  dealings  with  the 
people,  so  long  as  he  can  keep  his  transactions  out  of  a 
court  of  justice.^  Similarly,  Sir  Reginald  Craddock  writes  : 
"  The  village  Bania  is  a  much-abused  individual,  but  he  is  as 
a  rule  a  quiet,  peaceable  man,  a  necessary  factor  in  the  village 
economy.  He  is  generally  most  forbearing  with  his  clients 
and  customers,  and  is  not  the  person  most  responsible  for 
the  indebtedness  of  the  ryot.  It  is  the  casual  moneylender 
with  little  or  no  capital  who  lives  by  his  wits,  or  the  large 
firms  with  shops  and  agents  scattered  over  the  face  of  the 
country  who  work  the  serious  mischief.  These  latter  en- 
courage the  people  to  take  loans  and  discourage  repayment 
until  the  debt  has  increased  by  accumulation  of  interest  to 
a  sum  from  which  the  borrower  cannot  easily  free  himself"  ^ 

1  Sir  II.  II.  "RisXty^s  Peoples  of  India,       p.  291. 
p.  127,  and  Appendix  I.  p.  8.  ^  Nagptu-  Setllement  Report  (1900), 

2  Punjab     Census     Report    (1881),       para.  54. 


The    progress   of   administration,    bringing    with    it   easy  21.  The 
and   safe   transit  all  over   the   country  ;    the   institution   of  a  '""'"^y" 

■'  lender 

complete   system  of  civil  justice  and  the  stringent   enforce-  changed 

ment   of  contracts  through  the  courts  ;   the   introduction  of  ^°'^  ''^'^ 
_  ^  '  worse. 

cash  coinage  as  the  basis  of  all  transactions ;  and  the  grant 
of  proprietary  and  transferable  rights  in  land,  appear  to  have 
at  the  same  time  enhanced  the  Bania's  prosperity  and 
increased  the  harshness  and  rapacity  of  his  dealings.  When 
the  moneylender  lived  in  the  village  he  had  an  interest  in 
the  solvency  of  the  tenants  who  constituted  his  clientele  and 
was  also  amenable  to  public  opinion,  even  though  not  of  his 
own  caste.  For  it  would  clearly  be  an  impossibly  unpleasant 
position  for  him  to  meet  no  one  but  bitter  enemies  whenever 
he  set  foot  outside  his  house,  and  to  go  to  bed  in  nightly 
fear  of  being  dacoited  and  murdered  by  a  combination  of 
his  next-door  neighbours.  He  therefore  probably  adopted 
the  motto  of  live  and  let  live,  and  conducted  his  transactions 
on  a  basis  of  custom,  like  the  other  traders  and  artisans  who 
lived  among  the  village  community.  But  with  the  rise  of 
the  large  banking  -  houses  whose  dealings  are  conducted 
through  agents  over  considerable  tracts  of  country,  public 
opinion  can  no  longer  act.  The  agent  looks  mainly  to  his 
principal,  and  the  latter  has  no  interest  in  or  regard  for  the 
cultivators  of  distant  villages.  He  cares  only  for  his  profit, 
and  his  business  is  conducted  with  a  single  view  to  that  end. 
He  himself  has  no  public  opinion  to  face,  as  he  lives  in  a 
town  among  a  community  of  his  caste-fellows,  and  here 
absolutely  no  discredit  is  attached  to  grinding  the  faces  of 
the  poor,  but  on  the  contrary  the  honour  and  consideration 
accruing  to  him  are  in  direct  proportion  to  his  wealth.  The 
agent  may  have  some  compunction,  but  his  first  aim  is  to 
please  his  principal,  and  as  he  is  often  a  sojourner  liable  to 
early  transfer  he  cares  little  what  may  be  said  or  thought 
about  him  locally. 

Again  the  introduction   of  the   English   law  of  contract  22.  The 
and   transfer  of  property,  and  the  increase  in   the  habit  of  enforce- 

11  ment  of 

litigation  have  greatly  altered   the  character  of  the  money-  contracts, 
lending  business  for  the  worse.      The  debtor  signs  a  bond 
sometimes    not    even    knowing   the   conditions,    more   often 
having  heard  them  but  without  any  clear  idea  of  their  effect 


or  of  the  consequences  to  himself,  and  as  readily  allows  it  to 
be  registered.  When  it  comes  into  court  the  witnesses,  who 
are  the  moneylender's  creatures,  easily  prove  that  it  was  a 
genuine  and  bona  fide  transaction,  and  the  debtor  is  too 
ignorant  and  stupid  to  be  able  to  show  that  he  did  not 
understand  the  bargain  or  that  it  was  unconscionable.  In 
any  case  the  court  has  little  or  no  power  to  go  behind  a 
properly  executed  contract  without  any  actual  evidence  of 
fraud,  and  has  no  option  but  to  decree  it  in  terms  of  the 
deed.  This  evil  is  likely  to  be  remedied  very  shortly,  as 
the  Government  of  India  have  announced  a  proposal  to 
introduce  the  recent  English  Act  and  allow  the  courts  the 
discretion  to  go  behind  contracts,  and  to  refuse  to  decree 
exorbitant  interest  or  other  hard  bargains.  This  urgently 
needed  reform  will,  it  may  be  hoped,  greatly  improve  the 
character  of  the  civil  administration  by  encouraging  the 
courts  to  realise  that  it  is  their  business  to  do  justice  between 
litigants,  and  not  merely  to  administer  the  letter  of  the  law  ; 
and  at  the  same  time  it  should  have  the  result,  as  in  England, 
of  quickening  the  public  conscience  and  that  of  the  money- 
lenders themselves,  which  has  indeed  already  been  to  some 
extent  awakened  by  other  Government  measures,  including 
the  example  set  by  the  Government  itself  as  a  creditor. 

Again  the  free  circulation  of  metal  currency  and  its 
adoption  as  a  medium  for  all  transactions  has  hitherto  been 
to  the  disadvantage  of  the  debtors.  Interest  on  money  was 
probably  little  in  vogue  among  pastoral  peoples,  and  was 
looked  upon  with  disfavour,  being  prohibited  by  both  the 
Mosaic  and  Muhammadan  codes.  The  reason  was  perhaps 
that  in  a  pastoral  community  there  existed  no  means  of 
making  a  profit  on  a  loan  by  which  interest  could  be  paid, 
and  hence  the  result  of  usury  was  that  the  debtor  ultimately 
became  enslaved  to  his  creditor  ;  and  the  enslavement  of 
freemen  on  any  considerable  scale  was  against  the  public 
interest.  With  the  introduction  of  agriculture  a  system  of 
loans  on  interest  became  a  necessary  and  useful  part  of  the 
public  economy,  as  a  cultivator  could  borrow  grain  to  sow 
land  and  support  himself  and  his  family  until  the  crop 
ripened,  out  of  which  the  loan,  principal  and  interest,  could 
be  repaid.      If,  as  seems  likely,  this  was  the  first  occasion 


for  the  introduction  of  the  system  of  loan-giving  on  a  large 
scale,  it  would  follow  that  the  rate  of  interest  would  be  based 
largely  on  the  return  yielded  by  the  earth  to  the  seed. 
Support  is  afforded  to  this  conjecture  by  the  fact  that  in 
the  case  of  grain  loans  in  the  Central  Provinces  the  interest 
on  loans  of  grain  of  the  crops  which  yield  a  comparatively 
small  return,  such  as  wheat,  is  twenty-five  to  fifty  per  cent, 
while  in  the  case  of  those  which  yield  a  large  return,  such  as 
juari  and  kodon,  it  is  one  hundred  per  cent.  These  high 
rates  of  interest  were  not  of  much  importance  so  long  as  the 
transaction  was  in  grain.  The  grain  was  much  less  valuable 
at  harvest  than  at  seed  time,  and  in  addition  the  lender  had 
the  expense  of  storing  and  protecting  his  stock  of  grain 
through  the  year.  It  is  probable  that  a  rate  of  twenty-five 
per  cent  on  grain  loans  does  not  yield  more  than  a  reasonable 
profit  to  the  lender.  But  when  in  recent  times  cash  came 
to  be  substituted  for  grain  it  would  appear  that  there  was 
no  proportionate  reduction  in  the  interest.  The  borrower 
would  lose  by  having  to  sell  his  grain  for  the  payment  of 
his  debt  at  the  most  unfavourable  rate  after  harvest,  and  since 
the  transaction  was  by  a  regular  deed  the  lender  no  longer 
took  any  share  of  the  risk  of  a  bad  harvest,  as  it  is 
probable  that  he  was  formerly  accustomed  to  do.  The  rates 
of  interest  for  cash  loans  afforded  a  disproportionate  profit 
to  the  lender,  who  was  put  to  no  substantial  expense  in 
keeping  money  as  he  had  formerly  been  in  the  case  of  grain. 
It  is  thus  probable  that  rates  for  cash  loans  were  for  a  con- 
siderable period  unduly  severe  in  proportion  to  the  risk,  and 
involved  unmerited  loss  to  the  borrower.  This  is  now  being 
remedied  by  competition,  by  Government  loans  given  on  a 
large  scale  in  time  of  scarcity,  and  by  the  introduction  of 
co-operative  credit.  But  it  has  probably  contributed  to 
expedite  the  transfer  of  land  from  the  cultivating  to  the 
moneylending  classes. 

Lastly  the  grant  of  proprietary  and  transferable  right  to  24.  Pro- 
land  has  afforded  a  new  incentive  and  reward  to  the  success-  ^"^  ^^^^^ 
ful  moneylender.      Prior  to  this  measure  it  is  probable  that  ferabie 
no  considerable  transfers  of  land  occurred  for  ordinary  debt.  |,^'^d. 
The  village  headman   might  be  ousted  for  non-payment  of 
revenue,  or  simply  through  the  greed  of  some  Government 

134  BAN  I  A  PART 

official  under  native  rule,  and  of  course  the  villages  were 
continually  pillaged  and  plundered  by  their  own  and  hostile 
armies  such  as  the  Pindaris,  while  the  population  was  periodic- 
ally decimated  by  famine.  But  apart  from  their  losses  by 
famine,  war  and  the  badness  of  the  central  government,  it  is 
probable  that  the  cultivators  were  held  to  have  a  hereditary 
right  to  their  land,  and  were  not  liable  to  ejectment  on  the 
suit  of  any  private  person.  It  is  doubtful  whether  they  had 
any  conception  of  ownership  of  the  land,  and  it  seems  likely 
that  they  may  have  thought  of  it  as  a  god  or  the  property 
of  the  god  ;  but  the  cultivating  castes  perhaps  had  a 
hereditary  right  to  cultivate  it,  just  as  the  Chamar  had  a 
prescriptive  right  to  the  hides  of  the  village  cattle,  the  Kalar 
to  the  mahua-flowers  for  making  his  liquor,  the  Kumhar  to 
clay  for  his  pots,  and  the  Teli  to  press  the  oil-seeds  grown  in 
his  village.  The  inferior  castes  were  not  allowed  to  hold 
land,  and  it  was  probably  never  imagined  that  the  village 
moneylender  should  by  means  of  a  piece  of  stamped  paper 
be  able  to  oust  the  cultivators  indebted  to  him  and  take  their 
land  himself.  With  the  grant  of  proprietary  right  to  land 
such  as  existed  in  England,  and  the  application  of  the 
English  law  of  contract  and  transfer  of  property,  a  new  and 
easy  road  to  wealth  was  opened  to  the  moneylender,  of  which 
he  was  not  slow  to  take  advantage.  The  Banias  have  thus 
ousted  numbers  of  improvident  proprietors  of  the  cultivating 
castes,  and  many  of  them  have  become  large  landlords.  A 
considerable  degree  of  protection  has  now  been  afforded  to 
landowners  and  cultivators,  and  the  process  has  been  checked, 
but  that  it  should  have  proceeded  so  far  is  regrettable  ;  and 
the  operation  of  the  law  has  been  responsible  for  a  large 
amount  of  unintentional  injustice  to  the  cultivating  castes 
and  especially  to  proprietors  of  aboriginal  descent,  who  on 
account  of  their  extreme  ignorance  and  improvidence  most 
readily  fall  a  prey  to  the  moneylender. 

As  landlords  the  Banias  were  not  at  first  a  success. 
They  did  not  care  to  spend  money  in  improving  their 
property,  and  ground  their  tenants  to  the  utmost.  Sir  R. 
Craddock  remarks  of  them  :  ^  "  Great  or  small  they  are 
absolutely  unfitted  by  their  natural  instincts  to  be  landlords. 

^  Nagpur  Settlement  Report  (1900),  para.  54. 


Shrewdest  of  traders,  most  business-like  in  the  matter  of 
bargains,  they  are  unable  to  take  a  broad  view  of  the  duties 
of  landlord  or  to  see  that  rack-renting  will  not  pay  in  the 
long  run." 

Still,  under  the  influence  of  education,  and  the  growth  of 
moral  feeling,  as  well  as  the  desire  to  stand  well  with  Govern- 
ment officers  and  to  obtain  recognition  in  the  shape  of  some 
honour,  many  of  the  Marwari  proprietors  are  developing  into 
just  and  progressive  landlords.  But  from  the  cultivator's 
point  of  view,  residence  on  their  estates,  which  are  managed 
by  agents  in  charge  of  a  number  of  villages  for  an  absent 
owner,  cannot  compare  with  the  system  of  the  small  cultivat- 
ing proprietor  resident  among  tenants  of  his  own  caste,  and 
bound  to  them  by  ties  of  sympathy  and  caste  feeling,  which 
produces,  as  described  by  Sir  R.  Craddock,  the  ideal  village. 

As  a  trader  the  Bania  formerly  had  a  high  standard  of  26.  Com- 
commercial  probity.  Even  though  he  might  show  little  ho^^esty 
kindliness  or  honesty  in  dealing  with  the  poorer  class  of 
borrowers,  he  was  respected  and  absolutely  reliable  in  regard 
to  money.  It  was  not  unusual  for  people  to  place  their 
money  in  a  rich  Bania's  hands  without  interest,  even  paying 
him  a  small  sum  for  safe-keeping.  Bankruptcy  was  con- 
sidered disgraceful,  and  was  visited  with  social  penalties  little 
less  severe  than  those  enforced  for  breaches  of  caste  rules. 
There  was  a  firm  belief  that  a  merchant's  condition  in  the 
next  world  depended  on  the  discharge  of  all  claims  against 
him.  And  the  duty  of  paying  ancestral  debts  was  evaded 
only  in  the  case  of  helpless  or  hopeless  poverty.  Of  late, 
partly  owing  to  the  waning  power  of  caste  and  religious 
feeling  in  the  matter,  and  partly  to  the  knowledge  of  the 
bankruptcy  laws,  the  standard  of  commercial  honour  has 
greatly  fallen.  Since  the  case  of  bankruptcy  is  governed  and 
arranged  for  by  law,  the  trader  thinks  that  so  long  as  he  can 
keep  within  the  law  he  has  done  nothing  wrong.  A  banker, 
when  heavily  involved,  seldom  scruples  to  become  a  bankrupt 
and  to  keep  back  money  enough  to  enable  him  to  start 
afresh,  even  if  he  does  nothing  worse.  This,  however,  is 
probably  a  transitory  phase,  and  the  same  thing  has  happened 
in  England  and  America  at  one  stage  of  commercial  develop- 
ment.     In  time  it  may  be  expected  that  the  loss  of  the  old 

136  BAN  I  A  PART 

religious  and  caste  feeling  will  be  made  good  by  a  new 
standard  of  commercial  honour  enforced  by  public  opinion 
among  merchants  generally.  The  Banias  are  very  good  to 
their  own  caste,  and  when  a  man  is  ruined  will  have  a 
general  subscription  and  provide  funds  to  enable  him  to  start 
afresh  in  a  small  way.  Beggars  are  very  rare  in  the  caste. 
Rich  Marwaris  are  extremely  generous  in  their  subscriptions 
to  objects  of  public  utility,  but  it  is  said  that  the  small  Bania 
is  not  very  charitably  inclined,  though  he  doles  out  handfuls 
of  grain  to  beggars  with  fair  liberality.  But  he  has  a  system 
by  which  he  exacts  from  those  who  deal  with  him  a  slight 
percentage  on  the  price  received  by  them  for  religious  pur- 
poses. This  is  called  Deodan  or  a  gift  to  God,  and  is 
supposed  to  go  into  some  public  fund  for  the  construction  or 
maintenance  of  a  temple  or  similar  object.  In  the  absence 
of  proper  supervision  or  audit  it  is  to  be  feared  that  the  Bania 
inclines  to  make  use  of  it  for  his  private  charity,  thus  saving 
himself  expense  on  that  score.  The  system  has  been  in- 
vestigated by  Mr.  Napier,  Commissioner  of  Jubbulpore, 
with  a  view  to  the  application  of  these  funds  to  public 

Bania,  Agarwala,  Ag-arwal. — This  is  generally  con- 
sidered to  be  the  highest  and  most  important  subdivision  of 
the  Banias.  They  numbered  about  25,000  persons  in  the 
Central  Provinces  in  191 1,  being  principally  found  in  Jub- 
bulpore and  Nagpur.  The  name  is  probably  derived  from 
Agroha,  a  small  town  in  the  Hissar  District  of  the  Punjab, 
whichwasformerlyof  some  commercial  importance.  Buchanan 
records  that  when  any  firm  failed  in  the  city  each  of  the  others 
contributed  a  brick  and  five  rupees,  which  formed  a  stock 
sufficient  for  the  merchant  to  recommence  trade  with 
advantage.  The  Agarwalas  trace  their  descent  from  a  Raja 
Agar  Sen,  whose  seventeen  sons  married  the  seventeen 
daughters  of  Basuki,  the  king  of  the  Nagas  or  snakes.  Elliot 
considers  that  the  snakes  were  really  the  Scythian  or  bar- 
barian immigrants,  the  Yuch-chi  or  Kushans,  from  whom 
several  of  the  Rajput  clans  as  the  Tak,  Haihayas  and  others, 
who  also  have  the  legend  of  snake  ancestry,  were  probably 
derived.      Elliot  also  remarks  that   Raja  Agar  Sen,  being  a 

II  aganivAla  137 

king,  must  have  been  a  Kshatriya,  and  thus  according  to  the 
legend  the  Agarwalas  would  have  Rajput  ancestry  on  both 
sides.  Their  appearance,  Mr.  Crooke  states,  indicates  good 
race  and  breeding,  and  would  lend  colour  to  the  theory  of  a 
Rajput  origin.  Raja  Agar  Sen  is  said  to  have  ruled  over 
both  Agra  and  Agroha,  and  it  seems  possible  that  the  name 
of  the  Agarwalas  may  also  be  connected  with  Agra,  which 
is  a  much  more  important  place  than  Agroha.  The  country 
round  Agra  and  Delhi  is  their  home,  and  the  shrine  of  the 
tutelary  goddess  of  some  of  the  Agarwalas  in  the  Central 
Provinces  is  near  Delhi.  The  memory  of  the  Naga  princess 
who  was  their  ancestor  is  still,  Sir  H.  Risley  states,  held  in 
honour  by  the  Agarwalas,  and  they  say,  *  Our  mother's  house 
is  of  the  race  of  the  snake.'  ^  No  Agarwala,  whether  Hindu 
or  Jain,  will  kill  or  molest  a  snake,  and  the  Vaishnava 
Agarwalas  of  Delhi  paint  pictures  of  snakes  on  either  side  of 
the  outside  doors  of  their  houses,  and  make  offerings  of  fruit 
and  flowers  before  them. 

In  the  Central  Provinces,  like  other  Bania  subcastes,  they 
are  divided  into  the  Bisa  and  Dasa  or  twenty  and  ten  sub- 
divisions, which  marry  among  themselves.  The  Bisa  rank 
higher  than  the  Dasa,  the  latter  being  considered  to  have 
some  flaw  in  their  pedigree,  such  as  descent  from  a  remarried 
widow.  The  Dasas  are  sometimes  said  to  be  the  descend- 
ants of  the  maidservants  who  accompanied  the  seventeen 
Naga  or  snake  princesses  on  their  marriages  to  the  sons 
of  Raja  Agar  Sen.  A  third  division  has  now  come  into 
existence  in  the  Central  Provinces,  known  as  the  Pacha 
or  fives;  these  are  apparently  of  still  more  doubtful  origin 
than  the  Dasas.  The  divisions  tend  to  be  endogamous,  but 
if  a  man  of  the  Bisa  or  Dasa  cannot  obtain  a  wife  from 
his  own  group  he  will  sometimes  marry  in  a  lower  group. 

The  Agarwalas  are  divided  into  seventeen  and  a  half 
gotras  or  exogamous  sections,  which  are  supposed  to  be 
descended  from  the  seventeen  sons  of  Raja  Agar  Sen.  The 
extra  \\2Xi  gotra  is  accounted  for  by  a  legend,  but  it  probably 
has  in  reality  also  something  to  do  with  illegitimate  descent. 
Some  of  the  gotras,  as  given  by  Mr.  Crooke,  are  as  a  matter 
of   fact  named  after  Brahmanical    saints  like  those    of  the 

*   Tribes  and  Castes  of  Bengal,  art.  Agarwala. 


Brahmans  ;  instances  of  these  are  Garga,  Gautama,  Kaushika, 
Kasyapa  and  Vasishtha  ;  the  others  appear  to  be  territorial 
or  titular  names.  The  prohibitions  on  marriage  between 
relations  are  far-reaching  among  the  Agarwalas.  The  de- 
tailed rules  are  given  in  the  article  on  Bania,  and  the  effect 
is  that  persons  descended  from  a  common  ancestor  cannot 
intermarry  for  five  generations.  When  the  wedding  pro- 
cession is  about  to  start  the  Kumhar  brings  his  donkey  and 
the  bridegroom  has  to  touch  it  with  his  foot,  or,  according  to 
one  version,  ride  upon  it.  The  origin  of  this  custom  is 
obscure,  but  the  people  now  say  that  it  is  meant  to  emphasise 
the  fact  that  the  bridegroom  is  going  to  do  a  foolish  thing. 
The  remarriage  of  widows  is  prohibited,  and  divorce  is  not 
recognised.  Most  of  the  Agarwalas  are  Vaishnava  by  reli- 
gion, but  a  few  are  Jains.  Intermarriage  between  members 
of  the  two  religions  is  permitted  in  some  localities,  and  the 
wife  adopts  that  of  her  husband.  The  Jain  Agarwalas 
observe  the  Hindu  festivals  and  employ  Brahmans  for  their 
ceremonies.  In  Nimar  the  caste  have  some  curious  taboos. 
It  is  said  that  a  married  woman  may  not  eat  wheat  until  a 
child  has  been  born  to  her,  but  only  juari  ;  and  if  she  has 
no  child  she  may  not  eat  wheat  all  her  life.  If  a  son  is  born 
to  her  she  must  go  to  Mahaur,  a  village  near  Delhi  where 
the  tutelary  goddess  of  the  caste  has  her  shrine.  This 
goddess  is  called  Mohna  Devi,  and  she  is  the  deified  spirit  of 
a  woman  who  burnt  herself  with  her  husband.  After  this 
the  woman  may  eat  wheat  ;  but  if  a  second  son  is  born  she 
must  stop  eating  wheat  until  she  has  been  to  the  shrine  again. 
But  if  she  has  a  daughter  she  may  at  once  and  always  eat 
wheat  without  visiting  the  shrine.  These  rules,  as  well  as 
the  veneration  of  a  snake,  from  which  they  believe  themselves 
to  be  descended  on  the  mother's  side,  may  perhaps,  as 
suggested  by  Sir  H.  Risley,  be  a  relic  of  the  system  of 
matriarchal  descent.  It  is  said  that  when  Raja  Agar  Sen  or 
his  sons  married  the  Naga  princesses,  he  obtained  permission 
as  a  special  favour  from  the  goddess  Lakshmi  that  the 
children  should  bear  their  father's  name  and  not  their 

In  Nimar  some  Agarwalas  worship  Goba  Pir,  the  god  of 
'    Tribes  and  Castes  of  Bengal,  art.  Agarwala. 


the  sweepers.  He  is  represented  by  a  pole  some  30  feet 
long  on  which  are  hung  a  cloth  and  cocoanuts.  The 
sweepers  carry  this  through  the  city  almost  daily  during 
the  month  of  Shrawan  (July),  and  people  offer  cocoanuts, 
tying  them  on  to  the  pole.  Some  Agarwalas  offer  vermilion 
to  the  god  in  token  of  worship,  and  a  {q\v  invite  it  to  the 
compounds  of  their  houses  and  keep  it  there  all  night  for 
the  same  purpose.  When  a  feast  is  given  in  the  caste 
the  Agarwalas  do  not  take  their  own  brass  vessels  accord- 
ing to  the  usual  practice,  but  the  host  gives  them  little 
earthen  pots  to  drink  from  which  are  afterwards  broken, 
and  leaf-plates  for  their  food.  The  Agarwalas  will  take 
food  cooked  without  water  {j)akki)  from  Oswal,  Maheshri 
and  Khandelwal  Banias.  The  Agarwalas  of  the  Central 
Provinces  hold  some  substantial  estates  in  Chhattlsgarh  ; 
these  were  obtained  at  the  first  settlements  during  1860-70, 
when  considerable  depression  existed,  and  many  of  the 
village  headmen  were  unwilling  to  accept  the  revenue 
assessed  on  their  villages.  The  more  enterprising  Banias 
stepped  in  and  took  them,  and  have  profited  enormously 
owing  to  the  increase  in  the  value  of  land.  Akbar's  great 
minister,  Todar  Mai,  who  first  introduced  an  assessment  of 
the  land-revenue  based  on  the  measurement  and  survey  of 
the  land,  is  said  to  have  been  an  Agarwala. 

Bania,  Ag^rahari.^^ — This  subcaste  numbered  nearly  2000 
persons  in  191 1,  resident  principally  in  Jubbulpore,  Raipur 
and  Bilaspur,  and  some  of  the  Feudatory  States.  Mr. 
Crooke  states  that  they  claim  partly  a  Vaishya  and  partly 
a  Brahmanical  descent,  and  wear  the  sacred  thread.  Like 
that  of  the  Agarwala  Banias  their  name  has  been  con- 
nected with  the  cities  of  Agra  and  Agroha.  There  is 
no  doubt  that  they  are  closely  connected  with  the  Agar- 
walas, and  Mr.  Nesfield  suggests  that  the  two  groups  must 
have  been  sections  of  one  and  the  same  caste  which 
quarrelled  on  some  trifling  matter  connected  with  cooking 
or  eating,  and  have  remained  separate  ever  since.  The 
Agrahari  Banias  are  Hindus,  and  some  of  them  belong  to 

'  The  information  on  this  subcaste  is  taken  from  Mr.  Crooke's  article  on  it 
in  his  Tribes  and  Castes. 


the  Nanakpanthi  sect.  They  are  principally  dealers  in 
provisions,  and  they  have  acquired  some  discredit  as  com- 
pared with  their  kinsfolk  the  Agarvvalas,  through  not 
secluding  their  women  and  allowing  them  to  attend  the 
shop.  They  also  retail  various  sweet-smelling  woods  which 
are  used  in  religious  ceremonies,  such  as  aloe -wood  and 
sandalwood,  besides  a  number  of  medicines  and  simples. 
The  richer  members  of  the  caste  are  bankers,  dealers  in 
grain  and  pawnbrokers. 

Bania,  AjudhiaMsi,  Audhia. — A  subcaste  of  Bania, 
whose  name  signifies  a  resident  of  Ajodhia,  the  old  name 
of  Oudh.  Outsiders  often  shorten  the  name  to  Audhia,  but, 
as  will  be  seen,  the  name  Audhia  is  regularly  applied  to 
a  criminal  class,  who  may  have  been  derived  from  the 
Ajudhiabasi  Banias,  but  are  now  quite  distinct  from  them. 
The  Ajudhiabasis  numbered  nearly  2000  persons  in  191  i, 
belonging  chiefly  to  the  Jubbulpore,  Narsinghpur  and 
Hoshangabad  Districts.  This  total  includes  any  persons 
who  may  have  returned  themselves  as  Audhia.  The 
Ajudhiabasis  are  nearly  all  Hindus  with  a  small  Jain 
minority.  Though  Oudh  was  their  original  home  they 
are  now  fairly  numerous  in  Cawnpore  and  Bundelkhand 
as  well,  and  it  may  have  been  from  this  last  locality  that 
they  entered  the  Central  Provinces.  Here  they  form  a 
separate  endogamous  group  and  do  not  marry  with  their 
caste -fellows  in  northern  India.  They  have  exogamous 
sections,  and  marriage  is  prohibited  within  the  section  and 
also  between  first  cousins.  They  permit  the  remarriage 
of  widows,  but  are  said  not  to  recognise  divorce,  and  to 
expel  from  the  caste  a  woman  guilty  of  adultery.  It  may 
be  doubted,  however,  whether  this  is  correct.  Brahmans 
serve  as  their  priests,  and  they  invest  boys  with  the  sacred 
thread  either  at  marriage  or  at  a  special  ceremony  known 
as  Gurmukh.  The  dead  arc  either  buried  or  burnt ;  in 
the  case  of  burial  men  are  laid  on  the  face  and  women 
on  the  back,  the  body  being  first  rubbed  with  salt,  clarified 
butter,  turmeric  and  milk.  A  little  earth  from  the  grave 
is  carried  away  and  thrown  into  a  sacred  river,  and  when 
the   dead    arc    burnt    the    ashes    are    similarly  disposed    of. 


Their  principal  deity  is  the  goddess  Devi,  and  at  the 
Dasahra  festival  they  offer  a  goat  to  her,  the  flesh  of 
which  is  distributed  among  members  of  the  caste. 

The  Audhias  are  a  well-known  criminal  tribe,  whose 
headquarters  is  in  the  Fatehpur  District.  They  say 
that  they  are  Banias,  and  use  the  name  Ajudhiabasi  in 
speaking  of  themselves,  and  from  their  customs  and  criminal 
methods  it  seems  not  unlikely  that  they  may  originally 
have  been  an  offshoot  from  the  Ajudhiabasi  Banias.  They 
are  now,  however,  perfectly  distinct  from  this  group,  and 
any  confusion  between  them  would  be  very  unjust  to  the 
latter.  In  northern  India  it  is  said  that  the  Audhias  deal 
largely  in  counterfeit  coin  and  false  jewellery,  and  never 
commit  crimes  of  violence ;  ^  but  in  Bombay  they  have 
taken  to  housebreaking,  though  they  usually  select  an 
empty  house.^  From  their  homes  in  the  United  Provinces 
they  wander  over  Central  India,  the  Central  Provinces, 
Bengal  and  Bombay ;  they  are  said  to  avoid  the  Punjab 
and  Sind  owing  to  difficulties  of  working,  and  they 
have  made  it  a  caste  offence  to  commit  any  crime  in  the 
Ganges-Jumna  Doab,  probably  because  this  is  their  home. 
It  is  said  also  that  if  any  one  of  them  is  imprisoned  he 
is  put  out  of  caste.  They  wander  about  disguised  as 
religious  mendicants,  Brahmans  or  Bairagis.  They  carry 
their  bedding  tied  on  their  back  with  a  cloth,  and  a  large 
bag  slung  over  the  shoulders  which  contains  food,  cooking- 
vessels  and  other  articles.  Sometimes  they  pretend  to  be 
Banias  and  hawk  about  sweets  and  groceries,  or  one 
of  the  gang  opens  a  shop,  which  serves  as  a  rendezvous 
and  centre  for  collecting  information.^  In  the  Districts 
where  they  reside  they  are  perfectly  well-behaved.  They 
are  well-to-do  and  to  all  appearance  respectable  in  their 
habits.  Their  women  are  well-dressed  with  plenty  of  orna- 
ments on  their  persons.  They  have  no  apparent  means 
of  support  ;  they  neither  cultivate  land  nor  trade  ;  and 
all  that  appears  on  the  surface  is  that  most  of  the  men 
and  boys  go  off  after  the  rains  and  return   at  the  end  of 

1   Mr.   Crooke's    Tribes  and  Castes,       Bombaji  Presidency,  art.  Audhia. 
art.  Audhia.  3  Kennedy,  ibidem. 

•^  Kennedy's  Criminal  Classes  of  the 


the  cold  weather.  If  asked  how  they  support  themselves 
they  reply  by  begging.  Their  marriage  rules  are  those  of 
high -caste  Hindus.  They  are  divided  into  two  classes, 
Unch  or  high  and  Nich  or  low,  the  former  being  of  pure 
blood,  and  the  latter  the  descendants  of  kept  women. 
These  are  practically  endogamous.  A  man  may  not  have 
more  than  two  wives.  If  a  girl  is  detected  in  immorality 
before  marriage,  she  is  permanently  excommunicated,  and 
a  married  woman  can  be  turned  out  by  her  husband 
on  proof  of  adultery.  A  bridegroom-price  is  usually  paid, 
the  father  of  the  bride  visiting  the  bridegroom  and  giving 
him  the  money  in  secret.  The  dead  are  burnt,  and  Brahmans 
are  duly  fed.  If  a  man  has  died  through  an  accident 
or  from  cholera,  smallpox,  poison  or  leprosy,  the  corpse,  if 
available,  is  at  once  consigned  to  the  Ganges  or  other 
river,  and  during  the  course  of  the  next  twelve  months  a 
Mahabrahman  is  paid  to  make  an  image  of  the  deceased 
in  gram-flour,  which  is  cremated  with  the  usual  rites.  As 
in  the  case  of  the  Ajudhiabasi  Banias,  the  tribal  deity  of 
the  Audhias  is  the  goddess  Devi.^ 

Bania,  Asathi.  —  This  subcaste  numbers  about  2500 
persons  in  the  Central  Provinces,  belonging  principally  to 
the  Damoh  and  Jubbulpore  Districts.  They  say  that  their 
original  home  was  the  Tikamgarh  State  in  Bundelkhand. 
They  do  not  rank  very  high,  and  are  sometimes  said  to  be 
the  descendants  of  an  Ahir  who  became  a  Bania.  The 
great  bulk  are  Hindus  and  a  small  minority  Jains.  It  is 
told  of  the  Asathis  that  they  first  bury  their  dead,  in  accord- 
ance presumably  with  a  former  practice,  and  then  exhume 
and  burn  the  bodies  ;  and  there  is  a  saying — 

Ardha  jale,  ardha  gave 
Ji7ika  7iain  Asathi  parc^ 

or,  '  He  who  is  an  Asathi  is  half  buried  and  half  burnt.* 
But  this  practice,  if  it  ever  really  existed,  has  now  been 

Bania,  Charnag-ri,  Channag-ri,  Samaiya. — The  Char- 
nagris  are  a  small  Jain  subcaste  which  numbered  about  2500 

1   Mr.  Crooke's  Tribes  and  Castes,  art.  Audhia. 

u  ASATHl  143 

persons  in  191  i,  residing  princiimlly  in  the  Damoh  and 
Chhlndwara  Districts.  They  are  the  followers  of  one  Taran 
Svvami,  who  is  said  to  have  lived  about  five  centuries  aL^^o. 
He  preached  against  the  worship  of  the  images  of  the  Jain 
Tirthakars,  and  said  that  this  should  be  abandoned  and  only 
the  sacred  books  be  revered.  The  chief  sacred  place  of  the 
sect  is  Malhargarh  in  Gwalior  State  ;  here  the  tomb  of  their 
prophet  is  situated  and  there  is  also  a  large  temple  in 
which  the  Jain  scriptures  are  enshrined.  In  the  month  of 
Phagun  (February)  a  fair  is  held  here,  and  Charnagris  dance 
in  the  temples,  holding  lighted  lamps  in  their  hands. 
Nowadays  the  Charnagris  also  visit  the  ordinary  Jain 
temples  when  their  own  are  not  available.  They  are 
practically  all  derived  from  Parwar  Banias,  and  formerly 
would  sometimes  give  their  daughters  to  Parwars  in  marriage, 
but  this  practice  is  said  to  have  stopped.  Like  other 
Bania  subcastes,  they  are  divided  into  Bisa  and  Dasa,  or 
twenty  and  ten  sections,  the  Dasa  being  of  irregular  descent. 
Intermarriage  between  the  two  sections  occasionally  occurs, 
and  the  Dasa  will  take  food  from  the  Bisa  section,  but  the 
latter  do  not  reciprocate  except  at  caste  feasts. 

Bania,  Dhusar,  Bhargfava  Dhusar. — The  origin  of  this 
group  is  much  disputed.  They  are  usually  classed  as  a 
subcaste  of  Bania,  but  claim  to  be  Brahmans.  They  take 
their  name  from  a  hill  called  Dhusi  or  Dhosi,  near  Narnaul 
on  the  border  of  Alwar  State.  The  title  Bhargava  signifies  a 
descendant  of  Bhrigu,  one  of  the  famous  eponymous  Rishis 
or  Brahmanical  saints,  to  whom  Manu  confided  his  institutes, 
calling  him  his  son.  If  this  was  their  original  name,  it 
would  show  that  they  were  Brahmans,  but  its  adoption 
appears  to  be  somewhat  recent.  Their  claim  to  be 
Brahmans  is,  however,  admitted  by  many  members  of  that 
caste,  and  it  is  stated  that  they  perform  the  functions  of 
Brahmans  in  their  original  home  in  Rajputana.  Mr.  Burn 
wrote  of  them  :  ^  "In  his  book  on  castes  published  in  1872 
Mr.  Sherring  does  not  refer  to  any  claim  to  kinship  wnth 
Brahmans,  though  in  his  description  of  Dhusar  Banias  he 
appears    to    include  the  people  under  consideration.      Both 

1    United  Provinces  Census  Report  (1901),  p.  220. 


the  Dhusar  Bhargavas  and  Dhusar  Banias  assert  that  Himu, 
the  capable  Vazir  of  Muhammad  Shah  Suri,  belonged  to 
their  community,  and  such  a  claim  by  the  former  is  if 
anything  in  favour  of  the  view  that  they  are  not  Brahmans, 
since  Himu  is  variously  described  by  Muhammadan  writers 
as  a  corn-chandler,  a  weighman  and  a  Bania.  Colonel  Dow 
in  his  history  of  Hindustan  calls  him  a  shopkeeper  who  was 
raised  by  Sher  Shah  to  be  Superintendent  of  Markets.  It 
is  not  improbable  that  Himu's  success  laid  the  foundation 
for  a  claim  to  a  higher  position,  but  the  matter  does  not 
admit  of  absolute  proof,  and  I  have  therefore  accepted  the 
decision  of  the  majority  of  the  caste  -  committees  and 
considered  them  as  a  caste  allied  to  Brahmans."  In  the 
Punjab  the  Dhusars  appear  to  be  in  some  places  Brahmans 
and  in  others  Banias.  "  They  take  their  food  before 
morning  prayer,  contrary  to  the  Hindu  rule,  but  of  late 
years  they  have  begun  to  conform  to  the  orthodox  practice. 
The  Brahman  Dhusar  marries  with  his  caste-fellows  and  the 
Bania  with  Banias,  avoiding  always  the  same  family  {gotrd) 
or  one  having  the  same  family  deity."  ^  From  the  above 
accounts  it  would  appear  that  the  Dhusars  may  have 
originally  been  a  class  of  Brahmans  who  took  to  trade,  like 
the  Palliwal  Brahmans  of  Marv/ar,  and  have  lost  their 
position  as  Brahmans  and  become  amalgamated  with  the 
Bania  caste  ;  or  they  may  have  been  Banias,  who  acted  as 
priests  to  others  of  the  community,  and  hence  claimed  to  be 
Brahmans.  The  caste  is  important  and  influential,  and  is 
now  making  every  effort  to  recover  or  substantiate  its 
Brahman  status.  One  writer  states  that  they  combine  the 
office  aptitude  and  hard-heartedness  to  a  debtor  characteristic 
of  the  Bania.  The  Dhusars  are  rigid  in  the  maintenance  of 
the  purity  of  their  order  and  in  the  performance  of  Hindu 
ceremonies  and  duties,  and  neither  eat  meat  nor  drink  any 
kind  of  spirit.  In  Delhi  they  were  distinguished  for  their 
talent  as  singers,  and  cultivated  a  peculiar  strain  or  measure, 
in  which  they  were  unsurpassed.^  In  the  Central  Provinces 
the  Dhusars  are  a  flourishing  body,  their  leaders  being  Rai 
Bahadur  Bihari  Lai  Khizanchi  of  Jubbulpore  and  Rai  Sahib 

•   Atkinson,    Himalayan    Gazetteer,        article  Dhusar. 
ii.    p.   473,    quoted    in   Mr.   Crooke's  ^  Sherring,  FIi7idH  Castes,  i.  p.  293. 

II  DOSAR  145 

Seth  Sundar  Lfil  of  Betul.  They  have  founded  the 
Bhfirgava  bank  of  Jubbulporc,  and  shown  considerable  public 
spirit  ;  to  the  latter  gentleman's  generosity  a  large  part  of 
the  success  of  the  recent  debt-conciliation  proceedings  in  the 
Betul  District  must  be  attributed. 

Bania,  Dosar,  Dusra.^ — This  subcaste  numbers  about 
600  persons.  The  original  name  is  Dusra  or  second,  and  the 
Dosar  or  Dusra  are  a  section  of  the  Ummar  Banias,  who  were 
so  called  because  they  permit  widows  to  make  a  second 
marriage.  Their  home  is  the  Ganges -Jumna  Doab  and 
Oudh,  and  in  the  United  Provinces  they  are  classed  as  an 
inferior  subcaste  of  the  Ummars.  Here  they  say  that  the 
Ummars  are  their  elder  brothers.  In  the  Central  Provinces 
they  are  said  to  be  forming  three  local  endogamous  groups 
according  as  their  homes  were  in  the  Doab,  Oudh  or  the 
Allahabad  country  ;  and  members  of  each  of  these  marry 
among  themselves.  The  Dosars  say  that  they  all  belong  to 
the  Kashyap "  gotra  or  clan,  but  for  the  purpose  of  marriage 
they  have  territorial  or  titular  exogamous  sections  ;  instances 
of  these  are  Gangapari,  a  native  of  Oudh  ;  Sagarah,  a  resident 
of  Saugor  ;  Makraha,  a  seller  of  makka  or  maize,  and 
Tamakhuha,  a  tobacco -seller.  They  pay  a  bridegroom- 
price,  the  full  recognised  amount  of  which  is  Rs.  211,  either 
in  cash  or  brass  cooking-vessels.  Those  who  cannot  afford 
this  sum  give  half  of  it  or  Rs.  105,  and  the  poorest  classes 
pay  anything  they  can  afford.  The  Dosars  are  Vaishnava 
Hindus  and  employ  Sanadhya  Brahmans  as  their  priests. 
These  Brahmans  will  take  food  without  water  from  their 
clients,  but  they  are  an  inferior  class  and  are  looked  down 
upon  by  other  Brahmans.  The  caste  are  mainly  shop- 
keepers, and  they  deal  in  gold  and  silver  ornaments,  as  well 
as  grain,  tobacco  and  all  kinds  of  groceries. 

Bania,  Gahoi.^ — This  Hindu  subcaste  numbered  nearly 
7000  persons  in  191 1,  belonging  principally  to  the  Saugor, 

^  This  account  is  based  on  a  paper  but  the  name  is  perhaps  derived  from 

furnished     by     Mr.     Jeorakhan     Lai,  Kachhap,  a  tortoise. 

Deputy   Inspector    of   Schools,    Bilas-  ^  This  article  is  mainly  based  on  a 

pur.  paper    by    ]\Ir.    Pancham    Lai,    Naib- 

-  Kashyap    was  a    Brahman    saint,  Tahsildar  Sihora. 

VOL.  II  L 

146  BAN  I  A  PART 

Jubbulpore  and  Narsinghpur  Districts.  Their  home  is  the 
Bundelkhand  country,  which  these  Districts  adjoin,  and  they 
say  that  their  original  headquarters  was  at  Kharagpur  in 
Bundelkhand,  whence  they  have  spread  over  the  surrounding 
country.  They  tell  a  curious  story  of  their  origin  to  the  effect 
that  once  upon  a  time  there  was  a  certain  schoolmaster,  one 
Biya  Pande  Brahman,  who  could  foretell  the  future.  One 
day  he  was  in  his  school  with  his  boys  when  he  foresaw  that 
there  was  about  to  be  an  earthquake.  He  immediately 
warned  his  boys  to  get  out  of  the  building,  and  himself  led 
the  way.  Only  twelve  of  the  boys  had  followed,  and  the 
others  were  still  hesitating,  when  the  earthquake  began,  the 
school  fell  in,  and  they  were  all  buried  in  the  ruins.  The 
schoolmaster  formed  the  boys  who  had  escaped  into  one 
caste,  calling  them  Gahoi,  which  is  supposed  to  mean  that 
which  is  left  or  the  residue  ;  and  he  determined  that  he  and 
his  descendants  would  be  the  priests  of  the  new  caste.  At 
the  weddings  of  the  Gahois  an  image  of  the  schoolmaster  is 
painted  on  the  house  wall,  and  the  bridegroom  worships  it  with 
offerings  of  butter  and  flowers.  The  story  indicates  clearly 
that  the  Gahois  are  of  mixed  descent  from  several  castes. 

The  subcaste  has  twelve  gotras  or  sections,  and  seventy- 
two  al  or  dnken,  which  are  subsections  of  the  gotras.  Several 
of  the  al  names  appear  to  be  of  a  titular  or  totemistic 
character,  as  Mor  peacock,  Sohania  beautiful,  Nagaria  a 
drummer,  Paharia  a  hillman,  Matele  the  name  of  a  village 
headman  in  Bundelkhand,  Piparvania  from  the  plpal  tree, 
Dadaria  a  singer.  The  rule  of  exogamy  is  said  to  be  that  a 
man  must  not  marry  in  his  own  gotra  nor  in  the  al  of  his 
mother  or  either  grandmother.^  Their  weddings  are  held 
only  at  the  bride's  house,  no  ceremonies  being  performed  at 
the  bridegroom's  ;  at  the  ceremony  the  bridegroom  stands 
in  the  centre  of  the  shed  by  the  marriage-post  and  the  bride 
walks  seven  times  round  him.  At  their  weddings  the 
Gahois  still  use  the  old  rupees  of  the  Nagpur  kingdom 
for  presents  and  payments  to  menials,  and  they  hoard  them 
up,  when  they  can  get  them,  for  this  special  purpose.  The 
rupee  is  sacred  with  the  Bania,  and  this  is  an  instance  of 
the  preservation  of  old  accessories   for  religious  ceremonies 

1  Mr.  Crooke's  Tribes  and  Castes,  art.  Gahoi. 


when  they  have  been  superseded  in  ordinary  use.  Polygamy 
is  permitted,  but  is  rare.  The  Gahois  employ  Bhargava 
Brahmans  for  their  priests,  and  these  are  presumably  the 
descendants  of  the  schoolmaster  who  founded  the  caste. 
At  the  thirteenth-day  feast  after  a  death  the  Brahmans 
must  be  fed  first  before  the  members  of  the  caste.  On  this 
occasion  thirteen  brass  or  earthen  vessels  arc  filled  with 
flour,  and  a  piece  of  money,  and  presented  to  thirteen 
Brahmans,  while  the  family  priest  receives  a  bed  and  piece 
of  cloth.  The  priests  are  said  to  be  greedy,  and  to  raise 
quarrels  over  the  value  of  the  presents  given  to  them.  At 
the  Diwali  festival  the  Gahois  worship  the  implements  of 
their  trade,  pen  and  ink,  and  their  account-books.  The 
Gahois  are  Vaishnava  Hindus,  and  abstain  from  all  flesh 
and  alcoholic  liquor.  They  trade  in  grain  and  groceries, 
and  are  bankers  and  moneylenders.  They  are  considered 
to  be  cunning  in  business,  and  a  proverb  says  that  a  Gahoi 
will  deceive  even  his  own  father. 

Bania,  Golapiirab,  Golahre. — This  Jain  subcaste  num- 
bers about  6000  persons  in  the  Central  Provinces,  and 
belongs  mainly  to  the  Saugor,  Damoh  and  Narsinghpur 
Districts.  Its  distribution  is  nearly  the  same  as  that  of  the 
Gahois,  and  it  is  probably  also  a  Bundelkhand  group.  The 
Golapurabs  are  practically  all  Digambari  Jains  with  a  small 
Hindu  minority.  In  some  localities  they  intermarry  with 
Parwar  Banias  who  are  also  Digambari  Jains  ;  and  they  will 
take  food  cooked  without  water  from  the  Nema  subcaste  who 
are  Hindus.  According  to  one  story  the  Golapurabs  were 
the  offspring  of  a  Purabia,  that  is  probably  a  Bais  Rajput,  by 
a  kept  woman  of  the  Ahlr  caste.  This  fits  in  very  well  with 
the  name,  as  Golak  means  a  bastard,  and  the  termination 
purab  would  be  from  Purabia  ;  but  it  is  probably  the  name 
which  has  given  rise  to  the  story,  or  at  any  rate  to  the  sup- 
posed descent  from  a  Purabia.  In  the  United  Provinces  a 
small  subcaste  of  Bania  called  Golahre  exists,  belonging  to 
the  Jhansi  District,  that  is  the  country  of  the  Golapurabs, 
and  Jain  by  religion.  There  is  no  doubt  that  this  group  is 
the  same  as  the  Golapurabs,  and  Mr.  Crooke  derives  ^  the 

'    Tribes  and  Castes,  art.  Golahre. 

148  BAN  I  A  PART 

name  from  gola^  a  grain-mart,  which  seems  more  probable  than 
the  derivation  suggested  above.  But  it  is  an  interesting  fact 
that  there  is  also  a  caste  of  cultivators  called  Golapurab  in 
the  United  Provinces,  found  only  in  the  Agra  District.  It  is 
suggested  that  these  people  are  the  illegitimate  offspring  of 
Sanadhya  Brahmans,  with  whom  they  appear  to  be  closely 
connected.  From  their  sept-names,  however,  which  include 
those  of  several  Rajput  clans  and  also  some  titular  terms  of 
a  low-caste  type,  Mr.  Crooke  thinks  their  Brahmanical  origin 
improbable.  It  is  noticeable  that  these  Golapurabs  though 
a  cultivating  caste  have,  like  the  Banias,  a  subcaste  called 
Dasa,  comprising  persons  of  irregular  descent ;  they  also 
prohibit  the  remarriage  of  widows,  and  abstain  from  all  flesh 
and  from  onions  and  garlic.  Such  customs  are  peculiar  in  a 
cultivating  caste,  and  resemble  those  of  Banias.  It  seems 
possible  that  a  detailed  investigation  might  give  ground  for 
supposing  that  both  the  Golahre  and  Golapurab  subcastes 
of  Banias  in  the  United  and  Central  Provinces  respectively 
are  connected  with  this  cultivating  caste  of  Golapurabs. 
The  latter  might  have  abandoned  the  Jain  religion  on 
taking  to  cultivation,  as  a  Jain  cannot  well  drive  the 
plough,  which  involves  destruction  of  animal  life  ;  or  the 
Bania  section  might  have  adopted  Jainism  in  order  to 
obtain  a  better  social  position  and  differentiate  themselves 
from  the  cultivators.  Unfortunately  no  detailed  information 
about  the  Golapurabs  of  the  Central  Provinces  is  available, 
from  which  the  probability  or  otherwise  of  this  hypothesis 
could  be  tested. 

Bania,  Kasarwani.^ — This  Hindu  subcaste  numbers  about 
6500  persons  in  the  Central  Provinces,  who  belong  mainly 
to  Saugor,  Jubbulpore  and  the  three  Chhattlsgarh  Districts. 
The  name  is  probably  derived  from  kdnsa,  bell-metal,  as 
these  Banias  retail  brass  and  bell  -  metal  vessels.  The 
Kasarwanis  may  therefore  not  improbably  be  an  occupational 
group  formed  from  persons  who  engaged  in  the  trade,  and  in 
that  case  they  may  be  wholly  or  partly  derived  from  the 
Kasars  and  Tameras,  the  castes  which  work  in  brass,  copper 

'  The  above  notice  is  partly  based  on  a  paper  by  Mr.  Sant  Prasad,  school- 
master, Nandgaon. 


and  bell-metal.  The  Kasarvvanis  are  numerous  in  Allahabad 
and  Mirzapur,  and  they  may  have  come  to  Chhattlsgarh 
from  Mirzapur,  attracted  by  the  bell-metal  industries  in 
Ratanpur  and  Drug.  In  Saugor  and  also  in  the  United 
Provinces  they  say  that  they  came  from  Kara  Manikpur 
several  generations  ago.  If  the  selling  of  metal  vessels  was 
their  original  calling,  many,  or  the  majority  of  them,  have 
now  abandoned  it,  and  deal  in  grain  and  groceries,  and  lend 
money  like  other  Banias.  The  Kasarwanis  do  not  observe 
the  same  standard  of  strictness  as  the  good  Bania  subcastes 
in  their  social  rules.  They  eat  the  flesh  of  goats,  sheep, 
birds  and  fish,  though  they  abstain  from  liquor.  They 
permit  the  remarriage  of  widows  and  divorce  ;  and  women 
who  have  been  divorced  can  marry  again  in  the  caste  by  the 
same  rite  as  widows.  They  also  allow  the  exchange  of  girls 
in  marriage  between  two  families.  They  do  not  as  a  rule 
wear  the  sacred  thread.  Their  priests  are  Sarwaria  Brahmans, 
and  these  Brahmans  and  a  few  Bania  subcastes,  such  as  the 
Agarwalas,  Umres  and  Gahois,  can  take  food  cooked 
without  water  from  them,  but  other  Brahmans  and  Rajputs 
will  not  take  any  kind  of  food.  Matches  are  arranged  in 
the  presence  of  the  head  of  the  caste  panchdyat,  who  is  known 
as  Chaudhri.  The  parents  on  each  side  give  their  consent, 
and  in  pledge  of  it  six  pice  (farthings)  are  taken  from  both 
of  them,  mixed  together  and  given  to  their  family  priests 
and  barbers,  four  pice  to  the  priests  and  two  to  the  barbers. 
The  following  is  a  local  derivation  of  the  name  ;  the  word 
kasar  means  more  or  the  increase,  and  bJiata  means  less  ; 
and  Hamdra  kya  kasar  hhata  ?  means  '  How  does  my 
account  stand  ? '  Hence  Kasarbani  is  one  who  keeps 
accounts,  that  is  a  Bania. 

Bania,  Kasaundhan. — This  subcaste  numbers  about  5500 
persons  in  the  Central  Provinces  and  is  returned  principally 
from  the  Bilaspur,  Raipur  and  Jubbulpore  Districts.  The 
name  is  derived  ^  by  Mr.  Crooke  from  kdnsa,  bell-metal,  and 
dkana,  wealth,  and  it  would  appear  that  the  Kasaundhans 
like  the  Kasarwanis  are  an  occupational  group,  made  up  of 
shopkeepers  who  dealt  in  metal  vessels.      Like  them  also  the 

^    Tribes  and  Castes,  art.  Kasaundhan. 


Kasaundhans  may  have  originally  been  constituted  from  the 
metal-working  castes,  and  indeed  they  may  be  only  a  local 
branch  of  the  Kasarwanis,  though  no  information  is  available 
which  would  decide  this  point.  In  the  United  Provinces 
both  the  Kasarwanis  and  Kasaundhans  are  divided  into  the 
Purbia  or  eastern  and  Pachhaiyan  or  western  subcastes. 
Dharam  Das,  the  great  disciple  of  Kablr,  who  founded  the 
Kablrpanthi  sect  in  the  Central  Provinces,  was  a  Kasaundhan 
Bania,  and  the  Kablrpanthi  Mahants  or  high-priests  of 
Kawardha  are  of  this  caste.  It  is  probable  that  a  good 
many  of  the  Kasaundhan  Banias  in  Bilaspur  and  Raipur 
belong  to  the  Kablrpanthi  sect.  The  remainder  are  ordinary 

Bania,  Khandelwal. — Thissubcaste  numbers  about  i  500 
persons  in  the  Central  Provinces  ;  they  are  most  numerous 
in  the  Hoshangabad  and  Amraoti  Districts,  but  are  scattered 
all  over  the  Province.  They  take  their  name  from  the  town 
of  Khandela  in  the  Jaipur  State  of  Rajputana,  which  was 
formerly  the  capital  of  the  Shekhawati  federation.  There  is 
also  a  Khandelwal  subcaste  of  the  Brahman  caste,  found  in 
the  United  Provinces.^  Mr.  Bhattacharya  says  of  them  :  ^ 
"  The  Khandelwal  Banias  are  not  inferior  to  any  other  division 
of  the  caste  either  in  wealth  or  refinement.  There  are  both 
Vaishnavites  and  Jains  among  them,  and  the  Vaishnavite 
Khandelwals  wear  the  sacred  thread.  The  millionaire  Seths 
of  Mathura  are  Khandelwal  Banias." 

Bania,  Lad. — This  subcaste  numbers  about  5000  persons 
in  the  Central  Provinces,  being  settled  in  Nimar,  Nagpur  and 
all  the  Berar  Districts.  The  Lad  Banias  came  from  Gujarat, 
and  Lad  is  derived  from  Lat-desh,  the  old  name  for  Gujarat. 
Like  other  Banias  they  are  divided  into  the  Bisa  and  Dasa 
groups  or  twenties  and  tens,  the  Dasa  being  of  irregular 
descent.  Their  family  priests  are  Khedavval  Brahmans,  and 
their  caste  deity  is  Ashapuri  of  Ashnai,  near  Petlad.  Lad 
women,  especially  those  of  Baroda,  are  noted  for  their  taste 
in  dress.      The  Lad  Banias  are  Hindus  of  the  Vallabhacharya 

^   Mr.  Crooke's  Tribes  and  Castes,  art.  Khandelwal. 
2  Hindu  Castes  and  Sects,  p.  209. 

II  LING  Ay  AT  151 

sect,  who  worship   Krishna,  and  were  formerly  addicted  to 
sexual  indulgence/ 

Bania,  Ling"ayat. — The  Lingayat  Banias  number  nearly 
8000  persons  in  the  Central  Provinces,  being  numerous  in 
Wardha,  Nagpur  and  all  the  Berar  Districts.  A  brief  account 
of  the  Lingayat  sect  has  been  given  in  a  separate  article. 
The  Lingayat  Banias  form  a  separate  endogamous  group, 
and  they  do  not  eat  or  intermarry  either  with  other  Banias 
or  with  members  of  other  castes  belonging  to  the  Lingayat 
sect.  But  they  retain  the  name  and  occupation  of  Banias. 
They  have  five  subdivisions,  Pancham,  Dikshawant,  Chilli- 
want,  Takalkar  and  Kanade.  The  Pancham  or  Pancham- 
salis  are  the  descendants  of  the  original  Brahman  converts 
to  the  Lingayat  sect.  They  are  the  main  body  of  the 
community  and  are  initiated  by  what  is  known  as  the  eight- 
fold sacrament  or  esJita-varna.  The  Dikshawant,  from  diksha 
or  initiation,  are  a  subdivision  of  the  Panchamsalis,  who 
apparently  initiate  disciples  like  the  Dikshit  Brahmans. 
The  Takalkar  are  said  to  take  their  name  from  a  forest 
called  Takali,  where  their  first  ancestress  bore  a  child  to 
the  god  Siva.  The  Kanade  are  from  Canara.  The  mean- 
ing of  the  term  Chilliwant  is  not  known  ;  it  is  said  that  a 
member  of  this  subcaste  will  throw  away  his  food  or  water 
if  it  is  seen  by  any  one  who  is  not  a  Lingayat,  and  they 
shave  the  whole  head.  The  above  form  endogamous  sub- 
castes.  The  Lingayat  Banias  also  have  exogamous  groups, 
the  names  of  which  are  mainly  titular,  of  a  low-caste  type. 
Instances  of  them  are  Kaode,  from  kawa  a  crow,  Teli  an 
oil-seller,  Thubri  a  dwarf,  Ubadkar  an  incendiary,  Gudkari 
a  sugar-seller  and  Dhamankar  from  Dhamangaon.  They 
say  that  the  maths  or  exogamous  groups  are  no  longer 
regarded,  and  that  marriage  is  now  prohibited  between 
persons  having  the  same  surname.  It  is  stated  that  if  a 
girl  is  not  married  before  adolescence  she  is  finally  expelled 
from  the  caste,  but  this  rule  has  probably  become  obsolete. 
The  proposal  for  marriage  comes  from  either  the  boy's  or 
girl's  party,  and  sometimes  the  bridegroom  receives  a  small 
sum  for  his  travelling  expenses,  while  at  other  times  a  bride- 
1  See  article  Bairagi  for  some  notice  of  the  sect. 


price  is  paid.  At  the  wedding,  rice  coloured  red  is  put  in 
the  hands  of  the  bridegroom  and  juari  coloured  yellow  in 
those  of  the  bride.  The  bridegroom  places  the  rice  on  the 
bride's  head  and  she  lays  the  juari  at  his  feet.  A  dish  full 
of  water  with  a  golden  ring  in  it  is  put  between  them,  and 
they  lay  their  hands  on  the  ring  together  under  the  water 
and  walk  five  times  round  a  decorative  little  marriage-shed 
erected  inside  the  real  one.  A  feast  is  given,  and  the  bridal 
couple  sit  on  a  little  dais  and  eat  out  of  the  same  dish. 
The  remarriage  of  widows  is  permitted,  but  the  widow  may 
not  marry  a  man  belonging  to  the  section  either  of  her 
first  husband  or  of  her  father.  Divorce  is  recognised.  The 
Lingayats  bury  the  dead  in  a  sitting  posture  with  the  lingam 
or  emblem  of  Siva,  which  has  never  left  the  dead  man  during 
his  lifetime,  clasped  in  his  right  hand.  Sometimes  a  platform 
is  made  over  the  grave  with  an  image  of  Siva.  They  do 
not  shave  the  head  in  token  of  mourning.  Their  principal 
festival  is  Shivratri  or  Siva's  night,  when  they  offer  the 
leaves  of  the  bel  tree  and  ashes  to  the  god.  A  Lingayat 
must  never  be  without  the  lingam  or  phallic  sign  of  Siva, 
which  is  carried  slung  round  the  neck  in  a  little  case  of 
silver,  copper  or  brass.  If  he  loses  it,  he  must  not  eat, 
drink  nor  smoke  until  he  finds  it  or  obtains  another.  The 
Lingayats  do  not  employ  Brahmans  for  any  purpose,  but  are 
served  by  their  own  priests,  the  Jangams,^  who  are  recruited 
both  by  descent  and  by  initiation  from  members  of  the 
Pancham  group.  The  Lingayat  Banias  are  practically  all 
immigrants  from  the  Telugu  country ;  they  have  Telugu 
names  and  speak  this  language  in  their  homes.  They  deal 
in  grain,  cloth,  groceries  and  spices. 

Bania,  Maheshri. — This  important  subcaste  of  Banias 
numbered  about  14,000  persons  in  the  Central  Provinces  in 
191 1,  of  whom  8000  belonged  to  the  Berar  Districts,  and  the 
remainder  principally  to  Hoshangabad,  Nimar,  Wardha  and 
Nagpur.  The  name  is  said  to  be  derived  from  Maheshwar, 
an  ancient  town  on  the  Nerbudda,  near  Indore,  and  one  of 
the  earliest  Rajput  settlements.  But  some  of  them  say 
that  their  original  home  is  in  Bikanir,  and  tell  a  story  to 
1  See  separate  article  on  Jangam. 


the  effect  that  their  ancestor  was  a  Raja  who  was  turned 
into  stone  with  his  seventy-two  followers  by  some  ascetics 
whose  devotions  they  had  interrupted  in  the  forest.  But 
when  their  wives  came  to  commit  sati  by  the  stone  figures 
the  god  Siva  intervened  and  brought  them  to  life  again. 
He  told  them  to  give  up  the  profession  of  arms  and  take 
to  trade.  So  the  seventy-two  followers  were  the  ancestors 
of  the  seventy-two  gotras  or  sections  of  the  Maheshris,  and 
the  Raja  became  their  tribal  Blidt  or  genealogist,  and  they 
were  called  Maheshri  or  Maheswari,  from  Mahesh,  a  name  of 
Siva.  In  Gujarat  the  term  Maheshri  or  Meshri  appears  to 
be  used  for  all  Banias  who  are  not  Jains,  including  the 
other  important  Hindu  subcastes.^  This  is  somewhat  peculiar, 
and  perhaps  tends  to  show  that  several  of  the  local  subcastes 
are  of  recent  formation.  But  though  they  profess  to  be 
named  after  Siva,  the  Maheshris,  like  practically  all  other 
Hindu  Banias,  are  Vaishnava  by  sect,  and  wear  the  kiniti  or 
necklace  of  beads  of  basil.  A  small  minority  are  Jains. 
It  is  to  be  noticed  that  both  the  place  of  their  origin,  an 
early  Rajput  settlement  of  the  Yadava  clan,  and  their  own 
legend  tend  to  show  that  they  were  derived  from  the  Rajput 
caste  ;  for  as  their  ancestors  were  attendants  on  a  Raja  and 
followed  the  profession  of  arms,  which  they  were  told  to 
abandon,  they  could  be  none  other  than  Rajpiits.  The 
Maheshris  also  have  the  Rajput  custom  of  sending  a  cocoa- 
nut  as  a  symbol  of  a  proposal  of  marriage.  In  Nimar  the 
Maheshri  Banias  say  they  belong  to  the  Dhakar  subcaste, 
a  name  which  usually  means  illegitimate,  though  they 
themselves  explain  that  it  is  derived  from  a  place  called 
Dhakargarh,  from  which  they  migrated.  As  already  stated 
they  are  divided  into  seventy-two  exogamous  clans,  the 
names  of  which  appear  to  be  titular  or  territorial.  It  is 
said  that  at  their  weddings  when  the  bridegroom  gets  to  the 
door  of  the  marriage-shed,  the  bride's  mother  ties  a  scarf 
round  his  neck  and  takes  hold  of  his  nose  and  drags  him 
into  the  shed.  Sometimes  they  make  the  bridegroom  kneel 
down  and  pay  reverence  to  a  shoe  as  a  joke.  They  do  not 
observe  the  custom  of  the  pangat  or  formal  festal  assembly, 
which  is  usual  among  Hindu  castes  ;  according  to  this,  none 

^  Bombay  Gazetteer,  Hindus  of  Gujarat,  p.  70. 

154  BAN  I  A  '  PART 

can  begin  to  eat  until  all  the  guests  have  assembled,  when 
they  all  sit  down  at  once.  Among  the  Maheshris  the  guests 
sit  down  as  they  come  in,  and  are  served  and  take  their  food 
and  go.  They  only  have  the  pajtgat  feast  on  very  rare 
occasions.  The  Maheshris  are  one  of  the  richest,  most 
enterprising  and  influential  classes  of  Banias.  They  are 
intelligent,  of  high-bred  appearance,  cleanly  habits  and 
courteous  manners.  The  great  bankers,  Sir  Kasturchand 
Daga  of  Kamptee,  of  the  firm  of  Bansi  Lai  Ablrchand,  and 
Rai  Bahadur  Seth  Jiwan  Das  and  Diwan  Bahadur  Seth 
Ballabh  Das,  of  Jubbulpore,  belong  to  this  subcaste. 

Bania,  Nema. — This  subcaste  numbers  nearly  4000 
persons,  the  bulk  of  whom  reside  in  the  Saugor,  Damoh, 
Narsinghpur  and  Seoni  Districts.  The  Nemas  are  most  largely 
returned  from  Central  India,  and  are  probably  a  Bundelkhand 
group  ;  they  will  eat  food  cooked  without  water  with  Gola- 
purab  Banias,  who  are  also  found  in  Bundelkhand.  They  are 
mainly  Hindus,  with  a  small  minority  of  Jains.  The  origin 
of  the  name  is  obscure  ;  the  suggestion  that  it  comes  from 
Nimar  appears  to  be  untenable,  as  there  are  very  few  Nemas 
in  that  District.  They  say  that  when  Parasurama  was 
slaying  the  Kshatriyas  fourteen  young  Rajput  princes,  who 
at  the  time  were  studying  religion  with  their  family  priests, 
were  saved  by  the  latter  on  renouncing  their  Kshatriya  status 
and  declaring  themselves  to  be  Vaishyas.  These  fourteen 
princes  were  the  ancestors  of  the  fourteen  gotras  of  the 
Nema  subcaste,  but  the  gotras  actually  bear  the  names  of 
the  fourteen  Rishis  or  saints  who  saved  their  lives.  These 
sections  appear  to  be  of  the  usual  Brahmanical  type,  but 
marriage  is  regulated  by  another  set  of  fifty-two  subsections, 
with  names  which  are  apparently  titular  or  territorial.  Like 
other  Bania  groups  the  Nemas  are  divided  into  Bisa  and 
Dasa  subdivisions  or  twenties  and  tens,  the  Bisa  being  of 
pure  and  the  Dasa  of  irregular  descent.  There  is  also  a 
third  group  of  Pacha  or  fives,  who  appear  to  be  the  offspring 
of  kept  women.  After  some  generations,  when  the  details 
of  their  ancestry  are  forgotten,  the  Pachas  probably  obtain 
promotion  into  the  Dasa  group.  The  Bisa  and  Dasa  groups 
take  food  together,  but  do  not  intermarry.     The  Nemas  wear 

II  oswal  155 

the  sacred  thread  and  apparently  prohibit  the  remarriage  of 
widows.  The  Nemas  are  considered  to  be  very  keen  busi- 
ness men,  and  a  saying  about  them  is,  "  Where  a  sheep 
grazes  or  a  Nema  trades,  what  is  there  left  for  anybody 
else  ?  " 

Bania,  Oswal. — This  is  perhaps  the  most  important  sub- 
division of  the  Banias  after  the  Agarwala.  The  Oswals 
numbered  nearly  10,000  persons  in  the  Central  Provinces  in 
191  I,  being  found  in  considerable  numbers  in  all  the  Berar 
Districts,  and  also  in  Nimar,  Wardha  and  Raipur.  The 
name  is  derived  from  the  town  of  Osia  or  Osnagar  in 
Marwar.  According  to  one  legend  of  their  origin  the  Raja 
of  Osnagar  had  no  son,  and  obtained  one  through  the 
promise  of  a  Jain  ascetic.  The  people  then  drove  the 
ascetic  from  the  town,  fearing  that  the  Raja  would  become 
a  Jain  ;  but  Osadev,  the  guardian  goddess  of  the  place,  told 
the  ascetic,  Sri  Ratan  Suri,  to  convert  the  Raja  by  a  miracle. 
So  she  took  a  small  hank  {pilni)  of  cotton  and  passed  it 
along  the  back  of  the  saint,  when  it  immediately  became  a 
snake  and  bit  Jaichand,  the  son  of  the  Raja,  in  the  toe,  while 
he  was  asleep  beside  his  wife.  Every  means  was  tried  to 
save  his  life,  but  he  died.  As  his  corpse  was  about  to  be 
burnt,  the  ascetic  sent  one  of  his  disciples  and  stopped  the 
cremation.  Then  the  Raja  came  with  the  body  of  his  son 
and  stood  with  hands  clasped  before  the  saint.  He  ordered 
that  it  was  to  be  taken  back  to  the  place  where  the  prince 
had  been  bitten,  and  that  the  princess  was  to  lie  down  beside 
it  as  before.  At  midnight  the  snake  returned  and  licked 
the  bite,  when  the  prince  was  restored  to  life.  Then  the 
Raja,  with  all  his  Court  and  people,  became  a  Jain.  He  and 
his  family  founded  the  gotra  or  section  now  known  as  Sri 
Srimal  or  most  noble  ;  his  servants  formed  that  known  as 
Srimal  or  excellent,  while  the  other  Rajputs  of  the  town 
became  ordinary  Oswals.  When  the  Brahmans  of  the  place 
heard  of  these  conversions  they  asked  the  saint  how  they 
were  to  live,  as  all  their  clients  had  become  Jains.  The 
saint  directed  that  they  should  continue  to  be  the  family 
priests  of  the  Oswals  and  be  known  as  Bhojak  or  '  eaters.' 
Thus  the  Oswals,  though  Jains,  continue  to  employ  Marwari 


Brahmans  as  their  family  priests.  Another  version  of  the 
story  is  that  the  king  of  Srimali  ^  allowed  no  one  who  was 
not  a  millionaire  to  live  within  his  city  walls.  In  conse- 
quence of  this  a  large  number  of  persons  left  Srimal,  and, 
settling  in  Mandovad,  called  it  Osa  or  the  frontier.  Among 
them  were  Srimali  Banias  and  also  Bhatti,  Chauhan,  Gahlot, 
Gaur,  Yadava,  and  several  other  clans  of  Rajputs,  and  these 
were  the  people  who  were  subsequently  converted  by  the 
Jain  ascetic,  Sri  Ratan  Suri,  and  formed  into  the  single  caste 
of  Oswal.^  Finally,  Colonel  Tod  states  that  the  Oswals 
are  all  of  pure  Rajput  descent,  of  no  single  tribe,  but  chiefly 
Panwars,  Solankis  and  Bhattis.^  From  these  legends  and  the 
fact  that  their  headquarters  are  in  Rajputana,  it  may  safely 
be  concluded  that  the  Oswal  Banias  are  of  Rajput  origin. 

The  large  majority  of  the  Oswals  are  Jain  by  religion, 
but  a  few  are  Vaishnava  Hindus.  Intermarriage  between 
the  Hindu  and  Jain  sections  is  permitted.  Like  the 
Agarwalas,  the  Oswals  are  divided  into  Bisa,  Dasa  and 
Pacha  sections  or  twenties,  tens  and  fives,  according  to  the 
purity  of  their  lineage.  The  Pacha  subcaste  still  permit 
the  remarriage  of  widows.  The  three  groups  take  food 
together  but  do  not  intermarry.  In  Bombay,  Dasa  Oswals 
intermarry  with  the  Dasa  groups  of  Srimali  and  Parwar 
Banias,'*  and  Oswals  generally  can  marry  with  other  good 
Bania  subcastes  so  long  as  both  parties  are  Jains.  The 
Oswals  are  divided  into  eighty-four  goiras  or  exogamous 
sections  for  purposes  of  marriage,  a  list  of  which  is  given  by 
Mr.  Crooke.^  Most  of  these  cannot  be  recognised,  but  a  few 
of  them  seem  to  be  titular,  as  Lorha  a  caste  which  grows 
hemp,  Nunia  a  salt-refiner,  Seth  a  banker,  Daftari  an  office- 
boy,  Vaid  a  physician,  Bhandari  a  cook,  and  Kukara  a  dog. 
These  may  indicate  a  certain  amount  of  admixture  of  foreign 
elements  in  the  caste.  As  stated  from  Benares,  the 
exogamous  rule  is  that  a  man  cannot  marry  in  his  own 
section,  and  he  cannot  marry  a  girl  whose  father's  or 
mother's  section  is  the  same  as  that  of  either  his  father  or 
mother.      This  would  bar  the  marriage  of  first  cousins. 

^  A  town  near  Jhalor  in  Marwar,  ^  Rajasihdti,  ii.  p.  210,  footnote, 

now  called  Bhinmal.  ^  Hindus  of  Gujarat,   loc.    cit.^  and 

2  Bombay     Gazetteer,     Hindtis     of  Bombay  Gazetteer,  xvi.  45. 
Gujarat,  p.  97.  ^   Tribes  and  Castes,  art.  Oswal. 


Though  Jains  the  Osvvfils  perform  their  weddings  by 
walking  round  the  sacred  fire  and  observe  certain  Hindu 
rites,  including  the  worship  of  the  god  Ganpati.^  They 
also  revere  other  Hindu  deities  and  the  sun  and  moon.  The 
dead  are  burnt,  but  they  do  not  observe  any  impurity  after  a 
death  nor  clean  the  house.  On  the  day  after  the  death  the 
mourning  family,  both  men  and  women,  visit  Parasnath's 
temple,  and  lay  one  seer  (2  lbs.)  of  Indian  millet  before  the 
god,  bow  to  him  and  go  home.  They  do  not  gather  the 
ashes  of  the  dead  nor  keep  the  yearly  death-day.  Their 
only  observance  is  that  on  some  day  between  the  twelfth 
day  after  a  death  and  the  end  of  a  year,  the  caste-people 
are  treated  to  a  dinner  of  sweetmeats  and  the  dead  '  are 
then  forgotten.'  ^  The  Oswals  will  take  food  cooked  with 
water  {katchi)  only  from  Brahmans,  and  that  cooked  without 
water  {pakki)  from  Agarwala  and  Maheshri  Banias.  In  the 
Central  Provinces  the  principal  deity  of  the  Oswals  is  the 
Jain  Tirthakar  Parasnath,  and  they  spend  large  sums  in  the 
erection  of  splendid  temples.  The  Oswals  are  the  most 
prominent  trading  caste  in  Rajputana  ;  and  they  have  also 
frequently  held  high  offices,  such  as  Diwan  or  minister,  and 
paymaster  in  Rajput  States.^ 

Bania,  Parwar.'* — This  Jain  subcaste  numbered  nearly 
29,000  persons  in  191 1.  They  belong  almost  entirely  to 
the  Jubbulpore  and  Nerbudda  Divisions,  and  the  great  bulk 
are  found  in  the  Saugor,  Damoh  and  Jubbulpore  Districts. 
The  origin  of  the  Parwars  and  of  their  name  is  not  known, 
but  there  is  some  reason  to  suppose  that  they  are  from 
Rajputana.  Their  women  wear  on  the  head  the  bij\  a 
Rajputana  ornament,  and  use  the  chdru,  a  deep  brass  plate 
for  drinking,  which  also  belongs  there.  Their  songs  are 
said  to  be  in  the  Rajasthani  dialect.  It  seems  likely  that 
the  Parwars  may  be  identical  with  the  Porawal  subcaste 
found  in  other  Provinces,  which,  judging  from  the  name,  may 
belong  to  Rajputana.      In  the  northern  Districts  the  Parwars 

1  Bombay  Gazetteer,  vol.  xvii.  p.  51.  ^  This  article    is    based    on  papers 

2  Ibidem.  by  Mr.  Pancham   Lai,   Naib-Tahslldar 

3  Bhattacharya,   Hindu   Castes   and  Sihora,  and  Munshi   Kanhya  Lai,  of 
Sects,  p.  207.  the  Gazetteer  office. 


BAN  I  A 

speak  Bundeli,  but  in  the  south  their  language  is  said  to 
be  Marwari. 

Among  the  Parwars  the  Samaiya  or  Channagri  form 
a  separate  sectarian  Jain  group.  They  do  not  worship 
the  images  of  the  Jain  Tirthakars,  but  enshrine  the  sacred 
books  of  the  Jains  in  their  temples,  and  worship  these. 
The  Parwars  will  take  daughters  in  marriage  from  the  Chan- 
nagris,  and  sometimes  give  their  daughters  in  consideration 
of  a  substantial  bride-price.  Among  the  Parwars  themselves 
there  is  a  social  division  between  the  Ath  Sake  and 
the  Chao  Sake  ;  the  former  will  not  permit  the  marriage  of 
persons  related  more  nearly  than  eight  degrees,  while  the 
latter  permit  it  after  four  degrees.  The  Ath  Sake  have  the 
higher  position,  and  if  one  of  them  marries  a  Chao  Sake  he 
is  degraded  to  that  group.  Besides  this  the  Parwars  have 
an  inferior  division  called  Benaikia,  which  consists  of  the 
offspring  of  irregular  unions  and  of  widows  who  have 
remarried.  Persons  who  have  committed  a  caste  offence  and 
cannot  pay  the  fine  imposed  on  them  for  it  also  go  into  this 
subcaste.  The  Benaikias  ^  themselves  are  distributed  into 
four  groups  of  varying  degrees  of  respectability,  and  families 
who  live  correctly  and  marry  as  well  as  they  can  tend  to  rise 
from  one  to  the  other  until  after  several  generations  they 
may  again  be  recognised  as  Parwars  proper. 

The  Parwars  have  twelve  gotras  or  main  sections,  and 
each  gotra  has,  or  is  supposed  to  have,  twelve  inuls  or 
subsections.  A  Parwar  must  not  marry  in  his  own  gotra 
nor  in  the  mul  of  his  mother,  or  any  of  his  grandmothers 
or  greatgrandmothers.  This  practically  bars  marriage  within 
seven  degrees  of  relationship.  But  a  man's  sister  and 
daughter  may  be  married  in  the  same  family,  and  even  to 
two  brothers,  and  a  man  can  marry  two  sisters. 

As  a  rule  no  bride-price  is  paid,  but  occasionally  an 
old  man  desiring  a  wife  will  give  something  substantial 
to  her  father  in  secret.  There  are  two  forms  of  marriage, 
called  Thinga  and  Dajanha ;  in  the  former,  women  do 
not  accompany  the  wedding  procession,  and  they  have  a 
separate  marriage-shed  at  the  bridegroom's  house  for  their 
own   celebrations  ;    while   in   the   latter,  they  accompany  it 

'  See  also  notice  of  Benaikias  in  article  on  Vidur. 

II  J'ARlVyjR  159 

and  erect  such  a  shed  at  the  house  in  the  bridegroom's 
village  or  town  where  they  have  their  lodging.  Before 
the  wedding,  the  bridegroom,  mounted  on  a  horse,  and  the 
bride,  carried  in  a  litter,  proceed  together  round  the  mar- 
riage-shed. The  bridegroom  then  stands  by  the  sacred 
post  in  the  centre  and  the  bride  walks  seven  times  round 
him.  In  the  evening  there  was  a  custom  of  dressing 
the  principal  male  relatives  of  the  bridegroom  in  women's 
clothes  and  making  them  dance,  but  this  is  now  being 
discarded.  On  the  fifth  day  is  held  a  rite  called  Palkachar. 
A  new  cot  is  provided  by  the  bride's  father,  and  on  it  is 
spread  a  red  cloth.  The  couple  are  seated  on  this  with 
their  hands  entwined,  and  their  relations  come  and  make 
them  presents.  If  the  bridegroom  catches  hold  of  the  dress 
of  his  mother-  or  father-in-law,  they  are  expected  to  make 
him  a  handsome  present.  In  other  respects  the  wedding 
follows  the  ordinary  Hindu  ritual.  Widow-marriage  and 
divorce  are  forbidden  among  the  Farwars  proper,  and  those 
who  practise  them  go  into  the  lower  Benaikia  group. 

The  Parwars  are  practically  all  Jains  of  the  Digambari  ^  Reii- 
sect.      They   build    costly   and    beautiful    temples    for   their  5'°": 
Tirthakars,  especially  for  their  favourite  Parasnath.      They  observ- 
have  also  many  Hindu  practices.     They  observe  the  Diwali,  ^'^^^^• 
Rakshabandhan  and   Holi   festivals  ;  they   say  that   at    the 
Diwali  the  last  Tirthakar  Mahavira  attained  beatitude  and 
the  gods   rained  down  jewels  ;  the  little  lamps  now  lighted 
at  Diwali  are  held  to  be  symbolic  of  these  jewels.      They 
tie  the  threads  round  the  wrist  on  Rakshabandhan  to  keep 
off   evil    spirits.       They    worship    Sitala    Devi,   the    Hindu 
goddess    of   smallpox,    and    employ    Brahmans    to    choose 
names  for  their  children  and  fix  the  dates  of  their  wedding 
and    other    ceremonies,    though     not     at     the     ceremonies 

The  caste  burn  the  dead,  with  the  exception  of  the  6.  Dis- 
bodies  of  young  children,  which  are  buried.  The  corpse  p°^^!  °^ 
is  sometimes  placed  sitting  in  a  car  to  be  taken  to  the 
cremation  ground,  but  often  laid  on  a  bier  in  the  ordinary 
manner.  The  sitting  posture  is  that  in  which  all  the 
Tirthakars  attained  paradise,  and  their  images  always  repre- 
sent them   in  this  posture.      The  corpse  is  naked   save  for 



a  new  piece  of  cloth  round  the  waist,  but  it  is  covered 
with  a  sheet.  The  Jains  do  not  shave  their  hair  in 
token  of  mourning,  nor  do  they  offer  sacrificial  cakes  to 
the  dead.  When  the  body  is  burnt  they  bathe  in  the  nearest 
water  and  go  home.  Neither  the  bearers  nor  the  mourners 
are  held  to  be  impure.  Next  day  the  mourning  family,  both 
men  and  women,  visit  Parasnath's  temple,  lay  two  pounds 
of  Indian  millet  before  the  god  and  go  home.^  But  in  the 
Central  Provinces  they  whitewash  their  houses,  get  their 
clothes  washed,  throw  away  their  earthen  pots  and  give  a 
feast  to  the  caste. 

The  Parwars  abstain  from  eating  any  kind  of  flesh  and 
from  drinking  liquor.  They  have  a  panchdyat  and  impose 
penalties  for  offences  against  caste  rules  like  the  Hindus. 
Among  the  offences  are  the  killing  of  any  living  thing, 
unchastity  or  adultery,  theft  or  other  bad  conduct,  taking 
cooked  food  or  water  from  a  caste  from  which  the  Parwars 
do  not  take  them,  and  violation  of  any  rule  of  their  religion. 
To  get  vermin  in  a  wound,  or  to  be  beaten  by  a  low-caste 
man  or  with  a  shoe,  incidents  which  entail  serious  penalties 
among  the  Hindus,  are  not  offences  with  the  Parwars. 
When  an  offender  is  put  out  of  caste  the  ordinary  depriva- 
tion is  that  he  is  not  allowed  to  enter  a  Jain  temple,  and 
in  serious  cases  he  may  also  not  eat  nor  drink  with  the  caste. 
The  Parwars  are  generally  engaged  in  the  trade  in  grain, 
ghi^  and  other  staples.  Several  of  them  are  well-to-do  and 
own  villages. 

Bania,  Srimali. — This  subcaste  takes  its  name  from  the 
town  of  Srimal,  which  is  now  Bhinmal  in  Marwar.  They 
numbered  600  persons  in  the  Central  Provinces  in  191 1,  most 
of  whom  belonged  to  the  Hoshangabad  District.  More  than 
two-thirds  were  Hindus  and  the  remainder  Jains.  Colonel 
Tod  writes  of  Bhinmal  and  an  adjoining  town,  Sanchor  : 
"  These  towns  are  on  the  high  road  to  Cutch  and  Gujarat, 
which  has  given  them  from  the  most  remote  times  a 
commercial  celebrity.  Bhinmal  is  said  to  contain  about 
1500  houses  and  Sanchor  half  that  number.  Very  wealthy 
mahdjans  or  merchants  used   to  reside  here,  but  insecurity 

^  Bombay  Gazetteer,  vol.  xvii.  p.  8i. 

II  UAfRE  i6i 

both  within  and  without  has  much  injured  these  cities." 
From  Bhinmal  the  Srimah's  appear  to  have  gone  to  Gujarat, 
where  they  are  found  in  considerable  numbers.  Their 
legend  of  origin  is  that  tlie  goddess  Lakshmi  created  from 
a  flower-garland  90,000  families  to  act  as  servants  to  the 
90,000  Srimali  Brahmans,  and  these  were  the  ancestors  of 
the  Srimali  Banias.^  Both  the  Jain  and  Hindu  sections 
of  the  Srimali  Banias  employ  Srimali  Brahmans  as  priests. 
Like  other  classes  of  Banias,  the  Srimali  are  divided  into 
two  sections,  the  Bisa  and  Dasa,  or  twenty  and  ten,  of  which 
the  Bisa  are  considered  to  be  of  pure  and  the  Dasa  of  some- 
what mixed  descent.  In  Gujarat  they  also  have  a  third 
territorial  group,  known  as  Ladva,  from  Lad,  the  old  name 
of  Gujarat.  All  three  subdivisions  take  food  together  but 
do  not  intermarry."  The  two  highest  sections  of  the  Oswal 
Banias  are  called  Sri  Srimal  and  Srimal,  and  it  is  possible 
that  further  investigation  might  show  the  Srimals  and 
Oswals  to  have  been  originally  of  one  stock. 

Bania,  Umre. — This  Hindu  subcaste  belongs  to  Damoh 
and  Jubbulpore.  They  are  perhaps  the  same  as  the  Ummar 
Banias  of  the  United  Provinces,  who  reside  in  the  Meerut, 
Agra  and  Kumaon  Divisions.  The  name  Umre  is  found 
as  a  subdivision  of  several  castes  in  the  Central  Provinces, 
as  the  Telis  and  others,  and  is  probably  derived  from  some 
town  or  tract  of  country  in  northern  or  central  India,  but 
no  identification  has  been  made.  Mr.  Bhimbhai  Kirparam 
states  that  in  Gujarat  the  Ummar  Banias  are  also  known 
as  Bagaria  from  the  Bagar  or  wild  country,  comprised  in 
the  Dongarpur  and  Pertabgarh  States  of  Rajputana,  where 
considerable  numbers  of  them  are  still  settled.  Their  head- 
quarters is  at  Sagwara,  near  Dongarpur,^  In  Damoh  the 
Umre  Banias  formerly  cultivated  the  al  plant,'*  which  yielded 
a  well-known  dye,  and  hence  they  lost  caste,  as  in  soaking  the 
roots  of  the  plant  to  extract  the  dye  the  numerous  insects  in 
them  are  necessarily  destroyed.  The  Dosar  subcaste  ^  are 
a  branch  of  the  Umre,  who  allow  widow-remarriage. 

1   Bombay      Gazetteer,      Hindus     of  ^  Ibidem,  p.  98. 

Gujarat,  p.  99.  *  Merinda  citrifolia,  see  art.  Alia. 

■■^  Ibidem.  -^  See  article. 

VOL.  II  M 





1 1. 

Historical  notice  of  the  caste. 
Batijdras    derived  frojn    the 

Chdrans  or  Bhdts. 
Chdran     Banjdras     oiiployed 

with  the  Mughal  armies. 
Internal  structure. 
Minor  subcastes. 
Marriage  :  betrothal. 
Birth  ajtd  death. 
Religion  :  Banjdri  Devi. 
Mithu  Bhiikia. 

22.    TJieir 

12.  Siva  Bhaia. 

13.  Worship  of  cattle. 

1 4.  Connection  with  the  Sikhs. 
I  5 .    Witchcraft. 

1 6.  Human  sacrifice. 

1 7.  Admissio7i  of  outsiders :   kid- 

7iapped  children  and  slaves. 

18.  Dress. 

1 9.  Social  customs. 

20.  The  Ndik  or  headman.     Ban- 

jdra  dogs. 

2 1 .  Crimi7ial    tendencies     of    the 


Banjara,  Wanjari,  Labhana,  Mukeri/  —  The  caste 
of  carriers  and  drivers  of  pack- bullocks.  In  191  i  the 
Banjaras  numbered  about  56,000  persons  in  the  Central 
Provinces  and  80,000  in  Berar,  the  caste  being  in  greater 
strength  here  than  in  any  part  of  India  except  Hyderabad, 
where  their  total  is  174,000.  Bombay  comes  next  with  a 
figure  approaching  that  of  the  Central  Provinces  and  Berar, 
and  the  caste  belongs  therefore  rather  to  the  Deccan  than  to 
northern  India.  The  name  has  been  variously  explained, 
but    the    most    probable    derivation    is    from    the    Sanskrit 

^  This  article  is  based  principally  on 
a  Monograph  on  the  Banjara  Clan,  by 
Mr.  N.  F.  Cumberlege  of  the  Berar 
Police,  believed  to  have  been  first 
written  in  1869  and  reprinted  in  1882  ; 
notes  on  the  Banjaras  written  by 
Colonel  Mackenzie  and  printed  in  the 
Berar  Census  Report  (1881)  and  the 
Pioneer  newspaper  (communicated  by 

Mrs.  Horsburgh)  ;  Major  Gunthorpe's 
C7-iminal  Tribes  ;  papers  by  Mr.  M.  E. 
Khare,  Extra-Assistant  Commissioner, 
Clianda ;  Mr.  Narayan  Rao,  Tahr. , 
Betul  ;  Mr.  Mukund  Rao,  Manager, 
Pachmarhi  Estate ;  and  information 
on  the  caste  collected  in  Yeotnial  and 


rr.  II       DANJARAS  nERIlKn  hliOM    /'///•:  CJlAKANS         163 

banijya  kanr,  a  merchant.  Sir  H.  M.  Elliot  held  that  the 
name  Banjfira  was  of  great  antiquity,  quoting  a  passage  from 
the  Dasa  Kumara  Charita  of  the  eleventh  or  twelfth  century. 
But  it  was  subsequently  shown  by  Professor  Cowcll  that 
the  name  l^anjara  did  not  occur  in  the  original  text  of  this 
work.^  Banjaras  are  supposed  to  be  the  people  mentioned 
by  Arrian  in  the  fourth  century  B.C.,  as  leading  a  wandering 
life,  dwelling  in  tents  and  letting  out  for  hire  their  beasts 
of  burden.'  But  this  passage  merely  proves  the  existence 
of  carriers  and  not  of  the  Banjara  caste.  Mr.  Crooke  states  '^ 
that  the  first  mention  of  Banjaras  in  Muhammadan  his- 
tory is  in  Sikandar's  attack  on  Dholpur  in  A.D,  1504.''  It 
seems  improbable,  therefore,  that  the  Banjaras  accompanied 
the  different  Muhammadan  invaders  of  India,  as  might 
have  been  inferred  from  the  fact  that  they  came  into 
the  Deccan  in  the  train  of  the  forces  of  Aurangzeb.  The 
caste  has  indeed  two  Muhammadan  sections,  the  Turkia 
and  Mukeri.^  But  both  of  these  have  the  same  Rajput 
clan  names  as  the  Hindu  branch  of  the  caste,  and  it  seems 
possible  that  they  may  have  embraced  Islam  under  the 
proselytising  influence  of  Aurangzeb,  or  simply  owing  to 
their  having  been  employed  with  the  Muhammadan  troops. 
The  great  bulk  of  the  caste  in  southern  India  are  Hindus, 
and  there  seems  no  reason  for  assuming  that  its  origin  was 

It  may  be  suggested  that  the  Banjaras  are  derived  from  2.  Ban- 
the  Charan  or  Bhat  caste  of  Rajputana.      Mr.  Cumberlege,  ^f'^^j^.^^ 
whose  MonogTaph  on   the  caste  in  Berar   is   one  of  the   best  from  the 
authorities,  states  that  of  the  four  divisions  existing  there  o^^Bhats 
the   Charans  are  the  most  numerous  and  by  far  the  most 
interesting  class.*"      In  the  article  on  Bhat  it  has  been  ex- 
plained how  the  Charans  or  bards,  owing  to  their  readiness 

'   Mr.    Crooke's   Tribes  a)id   Castes,  actions  Bombay  Literary  Society,  \o\.\. 

art.  Banjara,  para.  i.  183)  says   that   "as   carriers  of  grain 

2  Berar      Census     Report     (1881),  for  Muhammadan  armies  the  Banjaras 

p.  150.  have  figured  in  history  from   the  days 

2  Ibidem,  para.  2,  quoting  Dowson's  of  Muhammad  Tughlak  (a.D.   1340)  to 

Elliot,  V.  100.  those  of  Aurangzeb.'' 

*  Khan    Bahadur     Fazalullah    Lut-  ^  Sir  H.    M.   Elliot's   Sttpplemeiital 

fullah  Farldi  in  the  Bombay  Gazetteer  Glossary. 

(Muhammadans   of    Gujarat,    p.    86)  ®  Monograph  on  ike  Batijdra   Clan, 

quoting  from  General  Briggs  [Trans-  p.  8, 

104  BANJARA  tart 

to  kill  themselves  rather  than  give  up  the  property  entrusted 
to  their  care,  became  the  best  safe-conduct  for  the  passage 
of  goods  in  Rajputana.  The  name  Charan  is  generally  held 
to  mean  '  Wanderer,'  and  in  their  capacity  of  bards  the 
Charans  were  accustomed  to  travel  from  court  to  court  of 
the  different  chiefs  in  quest  of  patronage.  They  were  first 
protected  by  their  sacred  character  and  afterwards  by  their 
custom  of  trdga  or  chdndi,  that  is,  of  killing  themselves  when 
attacked  and  threatening  their  assailants  with  the  dreaded 
fate  of  being  haunted  by  their  ghosts.  Mr.  Bhimbhai 
Kirparam  ^  remarks  :  "  After  Parasurama's  dispersion  of  the 
Kshatris  the  Charans  accompanied  them  in  their  southward 
flight.  In  those  troubled  times  the  Charans  took  charge 
of  the  supplies  of  the  Kshatri  forces  and  so  fell  to  their 
present  position  of  cattle-breeders  and  grain-carriers.  .  .  ." 
Most  of  the  Charans  are  graziers,  cattle-sellers  and  pack- 
carriers.  Colonel  Tod  says  :  ^  "  The  Charans  and  Bhats  or 
bards  and  genealogists  are  the  chief  carriers  of  these  regions 
(Marwar)  ;  their  sacred  character  overawes  the  lawless  Rajput 
chief,  and  even  the  savage  Koli  and  Bhil  and  the  plundering 
Sahrai  of  the  desert  dread  the  anathema  of  these  singular 
races,  who  conduct  the  caravans  through  the  wildest  and 
most  desolate  regions."  In  another  passage  Colonel  Tod 
identifies  the  Charans  and  Banjaras  ^  as  follows  :  "  Murlah 
is  an  excellent  township  inhabited  by  a  community  of 
Charans  of  the  tribe  Cucholia  (Kacheli),  who  are  Bunjarris 
(carriers)  by  profession,  though  poets  by  birth.  The  alliance 
is  a  curious  one,  and  would  appear  incongruous  were  not 
gain  the  object  generally  in  both  cases.  It  was  the  sanctity 
of  their  office  which  converted  our  bardais  (bards)  into 
buujdrris,  for  their  persons  being  sacred,  the  immunity  ex- 
tended likewise  to  their  goods  and  saved  them  from  all 
imposts  ;  so  that  in  process  of  time  they  became  the  free- 
traders of  Rajputana.  I  was  highly  gratified  with  the  re- 
ception I  received  from  the  community,  which  collectively 
advanced  to  meet  me  at  some  distance  from  the  town.  The 
procession  was  headed  by  the  village  elders  and  all  the  fair 
Charanis,  who,   as   they  approached,   gracefully  waved  their 

'   Hindus  of  Gujarat,  p.  214  e(  seq.  ^  Rajasthdn,  i.  602. 

3  Ibidem,  ii.  570,  573. 


scarfs  over  mc  until  I  was  fairly  made  captive  by  the  muses 
of  Murlah  !  It  was  a  novel  and  interesting  scene.  The 
manly  persons  of  the  Charans,  clad  in  the  flowing  white 
robe  witii  the  high  loose-folded  turban  inclined  on  one  side, 
from  which  the  Didla  or  chaplet  was  gracefully  suspended  ; 
and  the  uaiqucs  or  leaders,  with  their  massive  necklaces  of 
gold,  with  the  image  of  the  pitriszvar  {iiianes)  depending 
therefrom,  gave  the  whole  an  air  of  opulence  and  dignity. 
The  females  were  uniformly  attired  in  a  skirt  of  dark-brown 
camlet,  having  a  bodice  of  light-coloured  stuff,  with  gold  orna- 
ments worked  into  their  fine  black  hair  ;  and  all  had  the 
favourite  chilris  or  rings  of  lidthiddnt  (elephant's  tooth) 
covering  the  arm  from  the  wrist  to  the  elbow,  and  even 
above  it."  A  little  later,  referring  to  the  same  Charan 
community.  Colonel  Tod  writes :  "  The  id?tda  or  caravan, 
consisting  of  four  thousand  bullocks,  has  been  kept  up 
amidst  all  the  evils  which  have  beset  this  land  through 
Mughal  and  Maratha  tyranny.  The  utility  of  these  caravans 
as  general  carriers  to  conflicting  armies  and  as  regular  tax- 
paying  subjects  has  proved  their  safeguard,  and  they  were 
too  strong  to  be  pillaged  by  any  petty  marauder,  as  any 
one  who  has  seen  a  Banjari  encampment  will  be  convinced. 
They  encamp  in  a  square,  and  their  grain-bags  piled  over 
each  other  breast-high,  with  interstices  left  for  their  match- 
locks, make  no  contemptible  fortification.  Even  the  ruth- 
less Turk,  Jamshid  Khan,  set  up  a  protecting  tablet  in 
favour  of  the  Charans  of  Murlah,  recording  their  exemp- 
tion from  dlnd  contributions,  and  that  there  should  be  no 
increase  in  duties,  with  threats  to  all  who  should  injure 
the  community.  As  usual,  the  sun  and  moon  are  appealed 
to  as  witnesses  of  good  faith,  and  sculptured  on  the 
stone.  Even  the  forest  Bhil  and  mountain  Mair  have  set 
up  their  signs  of  immunity  and  protection  to  the  chosen 
of  Hinglaz  (tutelary  deity)  ;  and  the  figures  of  a  cow  and 
its  kairi  (calf)  carved  in  rude  relief  speak  the  agreement 
that  they  should  not  be  slain  or  stolen  within  the  limits  of 

In  the  above  passage  the  community  described  by 
Colonel  Tod  were  Charans,  but  he  identified  them  with 
Banjaras,  using  the  name  alternatively.      He  mentions  their 

1 66  BANJARA  part 

large  herds  of  pack-bullocks,  for  the  management  of  which 
the  Charans,  who  were  graziers  as  well  as  bards,  would 
naturally  be  adapted  ;  the  name  given  to  the  camp,  tdnda, 
is  that  generally  used  by  the  Banjaras  ;  the  women  wore 
ivory  bangles,  which  the  Banjara  women  wear.^  In  com- 
menting on  the  way  in  which  the  women  threw  their  scarves 
over  him,  making  him  a  prisoner.  Colonel  Tod  remarks  : 
"  This  community  had  enjoyed  for  five  hundred  years  the 
privilege  of  making  prisoner  any  Rana  of  Mewar  who  may 
pass  through  Murlah,  and  keeping  him  in  bondage  until  he 
gives  them  a  got  or  entertainment.  The  patriarch  (of  the 
village)  told  me  that  I  was  in  jeopardy  as  the  Rana's  repre- 
sentative, but  not  knowing  how  I  might  have  relished  the 
joke  had  it  been  carried  to  its  conclusion,  they  let  me  escape." 
Mr.  Ball  notes  a  similar  custom  of  the  Banjara  women  far 
away  in  the  Bastar  State  of  the  Central  Provinces  : "  "  To- 
day I  passed  through  another  Banjara  hamlet,  from  whence 
the  women  and  girls  all  hurried  out  in  pursuit,  and  a  brazen- 
faced powerful-looking  lass  seized  the  bridle  of  my  horse  as 
he  was  being  led  by  the  sais  in  the  rear.  The  sais  and 
chaprdsi  were  both  Muhammadans,  and  the  forward  conduct 
of  these  females  perplexed  them  not  a  little,  and  the  former 
was  fast  losing  his  temper  at  being  thus  assaulted  by  a 
woman."  Colonel  Mackenzie  in  his  account  of  the  Banjara 
caste  remarks  :  ^  "It  is  certain  that  the  Charans,  whoever 
they  were,  first  rose  to  the  demand  which  the  great  armies 
of  northern  India,  contending  in  exhausted  countries  far 
from  their  basis  of  supply,  created,  viz.  the  want  of  a  fearless 
and  reliable  transport  service.  .  .  .  The  start  which  the 
Charans  then  acquired  they  retain  among  Banjaras  to  this 
day,  though  in  very  much  diminished  splendour  and  position. 
As  they  themselves  relate,  they  were  originally  five  brethren, 
Rathor,  Turi,  Panwar,  Chauhan  and  Jadon.  But  fortune 
particularly  smiled  on  Bhika  Rathor,  as  his  four  sons,  Mersi, 
Multasi,    Dheda    and    Khamdar,    great    names    among    the 

'  This  custom  does  not   necessarily  frequently  wear  the  hair  long,  down  to 

indicate  a  special  connection  between  the  neck,  which  is  another  custom  of 

the    Banjaras    and    Charans,    as    it    is  Kajputana. 

common  to  several  castes  in  Kajputana  ;  ^  Jungle  Life  in  India,  p.  517. 

but  it  indicates  that  the  Banjaras  came  ■''  Berar   Census   Report   (1881),    p. 

from    Kajputana.      Banjara    men    also  152. 

II  BANJARAS  DJSRfVE/)  I'ROM  77/K  ClfARANS         167 

Charans,  rose  immediately  to  eminence  as  commissariat 
transporters  in  the  north.  And  not  only  under  the  Delhi 
Emperors,  but  under  the  Satara,  subsequently  the  Poona 
Raj,  and  the  Subahship  of  the  Nizam,  did  several  of  their 
descendants  rise  to  consideration  and  power."  It  thus  seems 
a  reasonable  hy[)othesis  that  the  nucleus  of  the  Banjara  caste 
was  constituted  by  the  Charans  or  bards  of  Rajputana.  Mr. 
Bhimbhai  Kirparam  ^  also  identifies  the  Charans  and  Banjaras, 
but  I  have  not  been  able  to  find  the  exact  passage.  The 
following'  notice '"'  by  Colonel  Tone  is  of  interest  in  this 
connection  : 

"  The  vast  consumption  that  attends  a  Maratha  army 
necessarily  superinduces  the  idea  of  great  supplies  ;  yet, 
notwithstanding  this,  the  native  powers  never  concern  them- 
selves about  providing  for  their  forces,  and  have  no  idea 
of  a  grain  and  victualling  department,  which  forms  so 
great  an  object  in  a  European  campaign.  The  Banias  or 
grain-sellers  in  an  Indian  army  have  always  their  servants 
ahead  of  the  troops  on  the  line  of  march,  to  purchase  in 
the  circumjacent  country  whatever  necessaries  are  to  be 
disposed  of.  Articles  of  consumption  are  never  wanting  in 
a  native  camp,  though  they  are  generally  twenty-five  per 
cent  dearer  than  in  the  town  bazars  ;  but  independent 
of  this  mode  of  supply  the  Vanjaris  or  itinerant  grain- 
merchants  furnish  large  quantities,  which  they  bring  on 
bullocks  from  an  immense  distance.  These  are  a  very 
peculiar  race,  and  appear  a  marked  and  discriminated 
people  from  any  other  I  have  seen  in  this  country. 
Formerly  they  were  considered  so  sacred  that  they  passed 
in  safety  in  the  midst  of  contending  armies  ;  of  late,  how- 
ever, this  reverence  for  their  character  is  much  abated 
and  they  have  been  frequently  plundered,  particularly  by 

The  reference  to  the  sacred  character  attaching  to 
the  Banjaras  a  century  ago  appears  to  be  strong  evidence 
in  favour  of  their  derivation  from  the  Charans.  For  it 
could  scarcely  have  been  obtained  by  any  body  of  com- 
missariat    agents     coming    into     India    with     the     Muham- 

'   Bombay  Gazetteer,  Hindus  of  Gujarat. 
-  Letter  on  the  Marathas  (1798),  p.  67,  India  Office  Tracts. 



madans.  The  fact  that  the  example  of  disregarding  it 
was  first  set  by  a  Muhammadan  prince  points  to  the  same 

Mr.  Irvine  notices  the  Banjaras  with  the  Mughal  armies 
in  similar  terms  :  ^  "It  is  by  these  people  that  the  Indian 
armies  in  the  field  are  fed,  and  they  are  never  injured  by 
either  army.  The  grain  is  taken  from  them,  but  invariably 
paid  for.  They  encamp  for  safety  every  evening  in  a 
regular  square  formed  of  the  bags  of  grain  of  which  they 
construct  a  breastwork.  They  and  their  families  are  in 
the  centre,  and  the  oxen  are  made  fast  outside.  Guards 
with  matchlocks  and  spears  are  placed  at  the  corners,  and 
their  dogs  do  duty  as  advanced  posts.  I  have  seen  them 
with  droves  of  5000  bullocks.  They  do  not  move  above 
two  miles  an  hour,  as  their  cattle  are  allowed  to  graze  as 
they  proceed  on  the  march." 

One  may  suppose  that  the  Charans  having  acted  as 
carriers  for  the  Rajput  chiefs  and  courts,  both  in  time  of 
peace  and  in  their  continuous  intestinal  feuds,  were  pressed 
into  service  when  the  Mughal  armies  entered  Rajputana 
and  passed  through  it  to  Gujarat  and  the  Deccan.  In 
adopting  the  profession  of  transport  agents  for  the  imperial 
troops  they  may  have  been  amalgamated  into  a  fresh 
caste  with  other  Hindus  and  Muhammadans  doing  the 
same  work,  just  as  the  camp  language  formed  by  the 
superposition  of  a  Persian  vocabulary  on  to  a  grammatical 
basis  of  Hindi  became  Urdu  or  Hindustani.  The  readiness 
of  the  Charans  to  commit  suicide  rather  than  give  up 
property  committed  to  their  charge  was  not,  however, 
copied  by  the  Banjaras,  and  so  far  as  I  am  aware  there 
is  no  record  of  men  of  this  caste  taking  their  own  lives, 
though  they  had  little  scruple  with  those  of  others. 

The  Charan  Banjaras,  Mr.  Cumberlege  states,"  first 
came  to  the  Deccan  with  Asaf  Khan  in  the  campaign  which 
closed  with  the  annexation  by  the  Emperor  Shah  Jahan 
of  Ahmadnagar  and  Berar  about  1630.  Their  leaders  or 
Naiks     were     Bhangi     and     Jhangi     of    the     Rathor^     and 

'  Army  of  the  Indian  A/itt^hals, 
p.   192. 

'^  Monograph,  p.  14,  and  Jierar 
Census  Report  (1S81)  (Kilts),  p.  151. 

^  These  are  held  to  have  been  de- 
scendants of  the  Bhika  Rathor  referred 
to  by  Colonel  Mackenzie  above. 

II  C//ARAN  n.lA'J.lh'AS   U'l'I'If  MlUJllAI.  ARMJI'.S       169 

Bhagvvun  Das  of  the  Jadtin  clan.  Bhangi  and  Jhangi  had 
180,000  pack-bullocks,  and  Bhagwan  Das  52,000.  It 
was  naturally  an  object  with  Asaf  Khan  to  keep  his 
commissariat  well  up  with  his  force,  and  as  Bhangi  and 
Jhangi  made  difficulties  about  the  supply  of  grass  and 
water  to  their  cattle,  he  gave  them  an  order  engraved  on 
copper  in  letters  of  gold  to  the  following  effect  : 

Ranjan  kd  pdtii 

ChJiappar  kd  ghds 

Din  kc  tin  k/ifin  miidf; 

Aur  jalidn  Asaf  Jdli  ke  ghorc 

IVahdn  Blian^^i  J/uDigi  kc  bail, 

which  may  be  rendered  as  follows :  "If  you  can  find  no 
water  elsewhere  you  may  even  take  it  from  the  pots  of 
my  followers  ;  grass  you  may  take  from  the  roofs  of  their 
huts ;  and  I  will  pardon  you  up  to  three  murders  a  day, 
provided  that  wherever  I  find  my  cavalry,  Bhangi  and 
Jhangi's  bullocks  shall  be  with  them."  This  grant  is  still 
in  the  possession  of  Bhangi  Naik's  descendant  who  lives  at 
Musi,  near  HingoH.  He  is  recognised  by  the  Hyderabad 
Court  as  the  head  Naik  of  the  Banjara  caste,  and  on  his 
death  his  successor  receives  a  khillat  or  dress-of-honour  from 
His  Highness  the  Nizam.  After  Asaf  Khan's  campaign  and 
settlement  in  the  Deccan,  a  quarrel  broke  out  between  the 
Rathor  clan,  headed  by  Bhangi  and  Jhangi,  and  the  Jadons 
under  Bhagwan  Das,  owing  to  the  fact  that  Asaf  Khan  had 
refused  to  give  Bhagwan  Das  a  grant  like  that  quoted  above. 
Both  Bhangi  and  Bhagwan  Das  were  slain  in  the  feud  and 
the  Jadons  captured  the  standard,  consisting  of  eight  thdns 
(lengths)  of  cloth,  which  was  annually  presented  by  the 
Nizam  to  Bhangi's  descendants.  When  Mr.  Cumberlege 
wrote  (1869),  this  standard  was  in  the  possession  of  Hatti 
Naik,  a  descendant  of  Bhagwan  D3.S,  who  had  an  estate 
near  Muchli  Bunder,  in  the  Madras  Presidency.  Colonel 
Mackenzie  states  ^  that  the  leaders  of  the  Rathor  clan 
became  so  distinguished  not  only  in  their  particular  line 
but  as  men  of  war  that  the  Emperors  recognised  their 
carrying   distinctive   standards,   which    were   known   as   dJial 

1  See  note  3,  p.  16S. 

I70  BAN  JAR  A  part 

by  the  Rathors  themselves.  Jhangi's  family  was  also 
represented  in  the  person  of  Ramu  Naik,  the  patel  or 
headman  of  the  village  of  Yaoli  in  the  Yeotmal  District. 
In  1791—92  the  Banjaras  were  employed  to  supply  grain 
to  the  British  army  under  the  Marquis  of  Cornwallis  during 
the  siege  of  Seringapatam/  and  the  Duke  of  Wellington 
in  his  Indian  campaigns  regularly  engaged  them  as  part  of 
the  commissariat  staff  of  his  army.  On  one  occasion  he 
said  of  them  :  "  The  Banjaras  I  look  upon  in  the  light 
of  servants  of  the  public,  of  whose  grain  I  have  a  right 
to  regulate  the  sale,  always  taking  care  that  they  have 
a  proportionate  advantage."  - 

Mr.  Cumberlege  gives  four  main  divisions  of  the  caste 
in  Berar,  the  Charans,  Mathurias,  Labhanas  and  Dharis. 
Of  these  the  Charans  are  by  far  the  most  numerous  and 
important,  and  included  all  the  famous  leaders  of  the 
caste  mentioned  above.  The  Charans  are  divided  into 
the  five  clans,  Rathor,  Panwar,  Chauhan,  Puri  and  Jadon 
or  Burthia,  all  of  these  being  the  names  of  leading  Rajput 
clans  ;  and  as  the  Charan  bards  themselves  were  probably 
Rajputs,  the  Banjaras,  who  are  descended  from  them,  may 
claim  the  same  lineage.  Each  clan  or  sept  is  divided  into 
a  number  of  subsepts  ;  thus  among  the  Rathors  the 
principal  subsept  is  the  Bhurkia,  called  after  the  Bhika 
Rathor  already  mentioned  ;  and  this  is  again  split  into 
four  groups,  Mersi,  Multasi,  Dheda  and  Khamdar,  named 
after  his  four  sons.  As  a  rule,  members  of  the  same  clan, 
Panwar,  Rathor  and  so  on,  may  not  intermarry,  but  Mr. 
Cumberlege  states  that  a  man  belonging  to  the  Banod 
or  Bhurkia  subsepts  of  the  Rathors  must  not  take  a  wife 
from  his  own  subsept,  but  may  marry  any  other  Rathor 
girl.  It  seems  probable  that  the  same  rule  may  hold 
with  the  other  subsepts,  as  it  is  most  unlikely  that  inter- 
marriage should  still  be  prohibited  among  so  large  a 
body  as  the  Rathor  Charans  have  now  become.  It  may 
be  supposed  therefore  that  the  division  into  subsepts  took 
place  when  it  became  too  inconvenient  to  prohibit  marriage 

'  General    Briggs    quoted    by    Mr.  -  A.    Wellesley    (1800),    quoted    in 

Farldi  in  Bombay  Gazetteer,  Muham-  Mr.  Crooke's  edition  of  Hobson-Jobson, 
madans  of  Gujarat,  p.  86.  art.  Brinjarry. 


throughout  the  whole  body  of  the  sept,  as  has  happened 
in  other  cases.  The  Mathuria  Banjaras  take  their  name 
from  Mathura  or  M ultra  and  appear  to  be  Brahmans. 
"  They  wear  the  sacred  thread/  know  the  Gayatri  Mantra, 
and  to  the  present  day  abstain  from  meat  and  Hquor, 
subsisting  entirely  on  grain  and  vegetables.  They  always 
had  a  sufficiency  of  Charans  and  servants  {Jdiigar)  in  their 
villages  to  perform  all  necessary  manual  labour,  and  would 
not  themselves  work  for  a  remuneration  otherwise  than 
by  carrying  grain,  which  was  and  still  is  their  legitimate 
occupation  ;  but  it  was  not  considered  undignified  to  cut 
wood  and  grass  for  the  household.  Both  Mathuria  and 
Labhana  men  are  fairer  than  the  Charans  ;  they  wear 
better  jewellery  and  their  loin-cloths  have  a  silk  border, 
while  those  of  the  Charans  are  of  rough,  common  cloth." 
The  Mathurias  are  sometimes  known  as  Ahiwasi,  and  may 
be  connected  with  the  Ahiwasis  of  the  Hindustani  Districts, 
who  also  drive  pack-bullocks  and  call  themselves  Brahmans. 
But  it  is  naturally  a  sin  for  a  Brahman  to  load  the  sacred 
ox,  and  any  one  who  does  so  is  held  to  have  derogated 
from  the  priestly  order.  The  Mathurias  are  divided 
according  to  Mr.  Cumberlege  into  four  groups  called  Pande, 
Dube,  Tiwari  and  Chaube,  all  of  which  are  common  titles 
of  Hindustani  Brahmans  and  signify  a  man  learned  in 
one,  two,  three  and  four  Vedas  respectively.  It  is  probable 
that  these  groups  are  cxogamous,  marrying  with  each 
other,  but  this  is  not  stated.  The  third  division,  the 
Labhanas,  may  derive  their  name  from  lavana,  salt,  and 
probably  devoted  themselves  more  especially  to  the  carriage 
of  this  staple.  They  are  said  to  be  Rajputs,  and  to  be 
descended  from  Mota  and  Mela,  the  cowherds  of  Krishna. 
The  fourth  subdivision  are  the  Dharis  or  bards  of  the  caste, 
who  rank  below  the  others.  According  to  their  own  story "" 
their  ancestor  was  a  member  of  the  Bhat  caste,  who  became 
a  disciple  of  Nanak,  the  Sikh  apostle,  and  with  him  attended 
a  feast  given  by  the  Mughal  Emperor  Humayun.  Here 
he  ate  the  flesh  of  a  cow  or  buffalo,  and  in  consequence 
became  a  Muhammadan  and  was  circumcised.  He  was 
employed  as  a  musician  at  the  Mughal  court,  and  his  sons 

^  Cumberlege,  loc.  cit.  -  Cumberlege,  pp.  28,  29. 


joined  the  Charans  and  became  the  bards  of  the  Banjara 
caste.  "  The  Dharis,"  Mr.  Cumberlege  continues,  "  are  both 
musicians  and  mendicants  ;  they  sing  in  praise  of  their 
own  and  the  Charan  ancestors  and  of  the  old  kings  of 
Delhi  ;  while  at  certain  seasons  of  the  year  they  visit 
Charan  hamlets,  when  each  family  gives  them  a  young 
bullock  or  a  few  rupees.  They  are  Muhammadans,  but 
worship  Sarasvati  and  at  their  marriages  offer  up  a  he-goat 
to  Gaji  and  Gandha,  the  two  sons  of  the  original  Bhat,  who 
became  a  IMuhammadan.  At  burials  a  Fakir  is  called  to 
read  the  prayers." 

Besides  the  above  four  main  divisions,  there  are  a  num- 
ber of  others,  the  caste  being  now  of  a  very  mixed  character. 
Two  principal  Muhammadan  groups  are  given  by  Sir 
H.  Elliot,  the  Turkia  and  Mukeri.  The  Turkia  have  thirty- 
six  septs,  some  with  Rajput  names  and  others  territorial  or 
titular.  They  seem  to  be  a  mixed  group  of  Hindus  who 
may  have  embraced  Islam  as  the  religion  of  their  employers. 
The  Mukeri  Banjaras  assert  that  they  derive  their  name 
from  Mecca  (Makka),  which  one  of  their  Naiks,  who  had  his 
camp  in  the  vicinity,  assisted  Father  Abraham  in  building.^ 
Mr.  Crooke  thinks  that  the  name  may  be  a  corruption  of 
Makkeri  and  mean  a  seller  of  maize.  Mr.  Cumberlege  says 
of  them  :  "  Multanis  and  Mukeris  have  been  called  Banjaras 
also,  but  have  nothing  in  common  with  the  caste  ;  the  Multanis 
are  carriers  of  grain  and  the  Mukeris  of  wood  and  timber,  and 
hence  the  confusion  may  have  arisen  between  them."  But  they 
are  now  held  to  be  Banjaras  by  common  usage  ;  in  Saugor 
the  Mukeris  also  deal  in  cattle.  From  Chanda  a  different  set 
of  subcastes  is  reported  called  Bhusarjin,  Ladjin,  Saojin  and 
Kanhejin  ;  the  first  may  take  their  name  from  bliusa,  the 
chaff  of  wheat,  while  Lad  is  the  term  -used  for  people 
coming  from  Gujarat,  and  Sao  means  a  banker.  In  Sambalpur 
again  a  class  of  Thuria  Banjaras  is  found,  divided  into  the 
Bandesia,  Atharadesia,  Navadcsia  and  Chhadesia,  or  the  men 
of  the  52  districts,  the  18  districts,  the  9  districts  and  the 
6  districts  respectively.  The  first  and  last  two  of  these  take 
food  and  marry  with  each  other.  Other  groups  are  the  Guar 
Banjaras,  apparently  from  Guara  or  Gwrda,  a  milkman,  the 
'  Elliot's  Races,  quoted  by  Mr.  Crooke,  ibidem. 

II  MARRIAi.E:    HETROr/fAL  173 

Guguria  Baiijaras,  wiio  may,  Mr.  Ilira  Lai  suggests,  take  their 
name  from  trading  in  gi'tgar^  a  Icind  of  gum,  and  the  Bahrup 
l^anjaras,  who  arc  Nats  or  acrobats.  In  Bcrar  also  a  number 
of  the  caste  have  become  respectable  cultivators  and  now  call 
themselves  Wanjari,  disclaiming  any  connection  with  the 
Banjaras,  probably  on  account  of  the  bad  reputation  for  crime 
attached  to  these  latter.  Many  of  the  Wanjaris  have  been 
allowed  to  rank  with  the  Kunbi  caste,  and  call  themselves 
Wanjari  Kunbis  in  order  the  better  to  dissociate  themselves 
from  their  parent  caste.  The  existing  caste  is  therefore  of  a 
very  mixed  nature,  and  the  original  Brahman  and  Charan 
strains,  though  still  perfectly  recognisable,  cannot  have  main- 
tained their  purity. 

At  a  betrothal  in  Nimar  the  bridegroom  and  his  friends  6.  Mar- 
come  and  stay  in  the  next  village  to  that  of  the  bride.  The  two  betrothal 
parties  meet  on  the  boundary  of  the  village,  and  here  the  bride- 
price  is  fixed,  which  is  often  a  very  large  sum,  ranging  from 
Rs.  200  to  Rs.  1000.  Until  the  price  is  paid  the  father 
will  not  let  the  bridegroom  into  his  house.  In  Yeotmal, 
when  a  betrothal  is  to  be  made,  the  parties  go  to  a  liquor-shop 
and  there  a  betel-leaf  and  a  large  handful  of  sugar  are 
distributed  to  everybody.  Here  the  price  to  be  paid  for  the 
bride  amounts  to  Rs.  40  and  four  young  bullocks.  Prior  to 
the  wedding  the  bridegroom  goes  and  stays  for  a  month  or 
so  in  the  house  of  the  bride's  father,  and  during  this  time 
he  must  provide  a  supply  of  liquor  daily  for  the  bride's 
male  relatives.  The  period  was  formerly  longer,  but  now 
extends  to  a  month  at  the  most.  While  he  resides  at  the 
bride's  house  the  bridegroom  wears  a  cloth  over  his  head 
so  that  his  face  cannot  be  seen.  Probably  the  prohibition 
against  seeing  him  applies  to  the  bride  only,  as  the  rule  in 
Berar  is  that  between  the  betrothal  and  marriage  of  a 
Charan  girl  she  may  not  eat  or  drink  in  the  bridegroom's 
house,  or  show  her  face  to  him  or  any  of  his  relatives. 
Mathuria  girls  must  be  wedded  before  they  are  seven  years 
old,  but  the  Charans  permit  them  to  remain  single  until  after 

Banjara    marriages   are   frequently  held   in    the   rains,   a  7.  Mar- 
season  forbidden  to  other  Hindus,  but  naturally  the  most  con-  "^^^• 
venient  to  them,  because  in  the  dry  weather  they  are  usuall}' 

174  BANJARA  part 

travelling.  For  the  marriage  ceremony  they  pitch  a  tent  in  lieu 
of  the  marriage-shed,  and  on  the  ground  they  place  two  rice- 
pounding  pestles,  round  which  the  bride  and  bridegroom 
make  the  seven  turns.  Others  substitute  for  the  pestles 
a  pack  -  saddle  with  two  bags  of  grain  in  order  to  sym- 
bolise their  camp  life.  During  the  turns  the  girl's  hand 
is  held  by  the  Joshi  or  village  priest,  or  some  other  Brahman, 
in  case  she  should  fall  ;  such  an  occurrence  being  probably  a 
very  unlucky  omen.  Afterwards,  the  girl  runs  away  and  the 
Brahman  has  to  pursue  and  catch  her.  In  Bhandara  the  girl 
is  clad  only  in  a  light  skirt  and  breast-cloth,  and  her  body  is 
rubbed  all  over  with  oil  in  order  to  make  his  task  more 
difficult.  During  this  time  the  bride's  party  pelt  the  Brah- 
man with  rice,  turmeric  and  areca-nuts,  and  sometimes  even 
with  stones  ;  and  if  he  is  forced  to  cry  with  the  pain,  it  is 
considered  luck}^  But  if  he  finally  catches  the  girl,  he  is 
conducted  to  a  dais  and  sits  there  holding  a  brass  plate 
in  front  of  him,  into  which  the  bridegroom's  party  drop 
presents.  A  case  is  mentioned  of  a  Brahman  having  obtained 
Rs.  70  in  this  manner.  Among  the  Mathuria  Banjaras  of 
Berar  the  ceremony  resembles  the  usual  Hindu  type.^ 
Before  the  wedding  the  families  bring  the  branches  of  eight 
or  ten  different  kinds  of  trees,  and  perform  the  Jiom  or  fire 
sacrifice  with  them.  A  Brahman  knots  the  clothes  of  the 
couple  together,  and  they  walk  round  the  fire.  When  the 
bride  arrives  at  the  bridegroom's  hamlet  after  the  wedding, 
two  small  brass  vessels  are  given  to  her  ;  she  fetches  water  in 
these  and  returns  them  to  the  women  of  the  boy's  family,  who 
mix  this  with  other  water  previously  drawn,  and  the  girl,  who 
up  to  this  period  was  considered  of  no  caste  at  all,  becomes 
a  Mathuria."  Food  is  cooked  with  this  water,  and  the  bride 
and  bridegroom  are  formally  received  into  the  husband's  kttri 
or  hamlet.  It  is  possible  that  the  mixing  of  the  water  may  be 
a  survival  of  the  blood  covenant,  whereby  a  girl  was  received 
into  her  husband's  clan  on  her  marriage  by  her  blood  being 
mixed  with  that  of  her  husband.'^  Or  it  may  be  simply 
symbolical  of  the  union  of  the  families.  In  some  localities 
after   the   wedding   the   bride   and   bridegroom   are   made   to 

1  Cumberlege,  pp.  4,  5.  '  Cumberlege,  I.e. 

^  This  custom  is  noticed  in  the  article  on  Khairwar. 


II  111 RTJ{  AND  Dl'lA  I'll  175 

stand  on  two  bullocks,  which  arc  driven  forward,  and  it  is 
believed  that  whichever  of  them  falls  off  first  will  be  the  first 
to  die. 

Owing  to  the  scarcity  of  women  in  the  caste  a  widow  8.  Widow 
is  seldom  allowed  to  go  out  of  the  family,  and  when  her 
husband  dies  she  is  taken  either  by  his  elder  or  younger 
brother  ;  this  is  in  opposition  to  the  usual  Hindu  practice, 
which  forbids  the  marriage  of  a  woman  to  her  deceased 
husband's  elder  brother,  on  the  ground  that  as  successor  to 
the  headship  of  the  joint  family  he  stands  to  her,  at  least 
potentially,  in  the  light  of  a  father.  If  the  widow  prefers 
another  man  and  runs  away  to  him,  the  first  husband's 
relatives  claim  compensation,  and  threaten,  in  the  event  of 
its  being  refused,  to  abduct  a  girl  from  this  man's  family  in 
exchange  for  the  widow.  But  no  case  of  abduction  has 
occurred  in  recent  years.  In  Berar  the  compensation 
claimed  in  the  case  of  a  woman  marrying  out  of  the  family 
amounts  to  Rs.  75,  with  Rs.  5  for  the  Naik  or  headman  of 
the  family.  Should  the  widow  elope  without  her  brother- 
in-law's  consent,  he  chooses  ten  or  twelve  of  his  friends  to 
go  and  sit  dharna  (starving  themselves)  before  the  hut  of 
the  man  who  has  taken  her.  He  is  then  bound  to  supply 
these  men  with  food  and  liquor  until  he  has  paid  the 
customary  sum,  when  he  may  marry  the  widow.^  In  the 
event  of  the  second  husband  being  too  poor  to  pay  monetary 
compensation,  he  gives  a  goat,  which  is  cut  into  eighteen 
pieces  and  distributed  to  the  community.^ 

After  the  birth  of  a  child  the  mother  is  unclean  for  five  9-  Birth 
days,  and  lives  apart  in  a  separate  hut,  which  is  run  up  for  ^"^  ^^^^'^^' 
her  use  in  the  kuri  or  hamlet.  On  the  sixth  day  she  washes 
the  feet  of  all  the  children  in  the  kuri,  feeds  them  and  then 
returns  to  her  husband's  hut.  When  a  child  is  born  in  a 
moving  tdnda  or  camp,  the  same  rule  is  observed,  and  for 
five  days  the  mother  walks  alone  after  the  camp  during  the 
daily    march.       The    caste    bury    the    bodies    of    unmarried 

1  Cuniberlege,  p.   18.  seems,   however,    to   be  a  euphemism, 

2  Mr.  Hlra  Lai  suggests  that  this  eighteen  castes  being  a  term  of  inde- 
custom  may  have  something  to  do  with  finite  multitude  for  any  or  no  caste, 
the  phrase  Athara  jat  ke  gayi,  or  The  number  eighteen  may  be  selected 
'She  has  gone  to  the  eighteen  castes,'  from  the  same  unknown  association 
used  of  a  woman  who  has  been  turned  which  causes  the  goat  to  be  cut  into 
out  of  the  community.       This    phrase  eighteen  pieces. 

176  BANJARA  part 

persons  and  those  dying  of  smallpox  and  burn  the  others. 
Their  rites  of  mourning  are  not  strict,  and  are  observed 
only  for  three  days.  The  Banjaras  have  a  saying  :  "  Death 
in  a  foreign  land  is  to  be  preferred,  where  there  are  no 
kinsfolk  to  mourn,  and  the  corpse  is  a  feast  for  birds  and 
animals  "  ;  but  this  may  perhaps  be  taken  rather  as  an  ex- 
pression of  philosophic  resignation  to  the  fate  which  must 
be  in  store  for  many  of  them,  than  a  real  preference,  as  with 
most  people  the  desire  to  die  at  home  almost  amounts  to 
an  instinct. 

10.  Reii-  One  of  the  tutelary  deities  of  the  Banjaras  is  Banjari 
1'°";  .  Devi,  whose  shrine  is  usually  located  in  the  forest.  It  is 
Devi.          often  represented  by  a  heap  of  stones,  a  large  stone  smeared 

with  vermilion  being  placed  on  the  top  of  the  heap  to  repre- 
sent the  goddess.  When  a  Banjara  passes  the  place  he 
casts  a  stone  upon  the  heap  as  a  prayer  to  the  goddess  to 
protect  him  from  the  dangers  of  the  forest.  A  similar 
practice  of  offering  bells  from  the  necks  of  cattle  is  recorded 
by  Mr.  Thurston  :  ^  "It  is  related  by  Moor  that  he  passed 
a  tree  on  which  were  hanging  several  hundred  bells.  This 
was  a  superstitious  sacrifice  of  the  Banjaras  (Lambaris),  who, 
passing  this  tree,  are  in  the  habit  of  hanging  a  bell  or  bells 
upon  it,  which  they  take  from  the  necks  of  their  sick  cattle, 
expecting  to  leave  behind  them  the  complaint  also.  Our 
servants  particularly  cautioned  us  against  touching  these 
diabolical  bells,  but  as  a  few  of  them  were  taken  for  our 
own  cattle,  several  accidents  which  happened  were  imputed 
to  the  anger  of  the  deity  to  whom  these  offerings  were 
made  ;  who,  they  say,  inflicts  the  same  disorder  on  the 
unhappy  bullock  who  carries  a  bell  from  the  tree,  as  that 
from  which  he  relieved  the  donor."  In  their  houses  the 
Banjari  Devi  is  represented  by  a  pack-saddle  set  on  high  in 
the  room,  and  this  is  worshipped  before  the  caravans  set 
out  on  their  annual  tours. 

11.  Mithu  Another  deity  is  Mlthu  Bhukia,  an  old  freebooter,  who 
lived  in  the  Central  Provinces  ;  he  is  venerated  by  the 
dacoits  as  the  most  clever  dacoit  known  in  the  annals  of  the 
caste,    and    a    hut    was  usually  set  apart    for  him   in    each 

1  Ethnographic  Notes   in   Southern    India,    p.    344,    quoting    from    Moor's 
Narrative  of  Little  s  Detachment. 


II  .SV/Vi   lUlAlA  177 

hamlet,  a  staff  carrying  a  white  flag  being  planted  before 
it.  Before  setting  out  for  a  clacoity,  the  men  engaged  would 
assemble  at  the  hut  of  Mlthu  Bhtikia,  and,  burning  a  lamp 
before  him,  ask  for  an  omen  ;  if  the  wick  of  the  lamp 
drooped  the  omen  was  propitious,  and  the  men  present 
then  set  out  at  once  on  the  raid  without  returning  home. 
They  might  not  speak  to  each  other  nor  answer  if  challenged  ; 
for  if  any  one  spoke  the  charm  would  be  broken  and  the 
protection  of  Mithu  15hukia  removed  ;  and  they  should 
either  return  to  take  the  omens  again  or  give  up  that 
particular  dacoity  altogether.^  It  has  been  recorded  as  a 
characteristic  trait  of  Banjaras  that  they  will,  as  a  rule,  not 
answer  if  spoken  to  when  engaged  on  a  robbery,  and  the 
custom  probably  arises  from  this  observance  ;  but  the 
worship  of  Mlthu  Bhukia  is  now  frequently  neglected. 
After  a  successful  dacoity  a  portion  of  the  spoil  would  be 
set  apart  for  Mlthu  Bhukia,  and  of  the  balance  the  Nfiik  or 
headman  of  the  village  received  two  shares  if  he  participated 
in  the  crime  ;  the  man  who  struck  the  first  blow  or  did  most 
towards  the  common  object  also  received  two  shares,  and 
all  the  rest  one  share.  With  Mlthu  Bhukia's  share  a  feast 
was  given  at  which  thanks  were  returned  to  him  for  the 
success  of  the  enterprise,  a  burnt  offering  of  incense  being 
made  in  his  tent  and  a  libation  of  liquor  poured  over  the 
flagstaff.  A  portion  of  the  food  was  sent  to  the  women 
and  children,  and  the  men  sat  down  to  the  feast.  Women 
were  not  allowed  to  share  in  the  worship  of  Mlthu  Bhukia 
nor  to  enter  his  hut. 

Another  favourite  deity  is  Siva  Bhaia,  whose  story  is  12.  Siva 
given  by  Colonel  Mackenzie  ^  as  follows  :  "  The  love  borne  ^'^^'^• 
by  Mari  Mata,  the  goddess  of  cholera,  for  the  handsome  Siva 
Rathor,  is  an  event  of  our  own  times  (1874)  ;  she  proposed 
to  him,  but  his  heart  being  pre-engaged  he  rejected  her  ; 
and  in  consequence  his  earthly  bride  was  smitten  sick  and 
died,  and  the  hand  of  the  goddess  fell  heavily  on  Siva 
himself,  thwarting  all  his  schemes  and  blighting  his  fortunes 
and  possessions,  until  at  last  he  gave  himself  up  to  her.  She 
then  possessed  him  and  caused  him  to  prosper  exceedingly, 
gifting    him    with    supernatural    power   until    his    fame   was 

^  Cumberlege,  p.  35.  2  Bei-ai-  Census  Report,  i8Si. 

VOL.  II  N 



noised  abroad,  and  he  was  venerated  as  the  saintly  Siva 
Bhaia  or  great  brother  to  all  women,  being  himself  unable 
to  marry.  But  in  his  old  age  the  goddess  capriciously 
wished  him  to  marry  and  have  issue,  but  he  refused  and 
was  slain  and  buried  at  Pohur  in  Berar.  A  temple  was 
erected  over  him  and  his  kinsmen  became  priests  of  it, 
and  hither  large  numbers  are  attracted  by  the  supposed 
efficacy  of  vows  made  to  Siva,  the  most  sacred  of  all 
oaths  being  that  taken  in  his  name."  If  a  Banjara 
swears  by  Siva  Bhaia,  placing  his  right  hand  on  the 
bare  head  of  his  son  and  heir,  and  grasping  a  cow's  tail 
in  his  left,  he  will  fear  to  jaerjure  himself,  lest  by  doing 
so  he  should  bring  injury  on  his  son  and  a  murrain  on  his 

Naturally  also  the  Banjaras  worshipped  their  pack- 
cattle.'"'  "  When  sickness  occurs  they  lead  the  sick  man 
to  the  feet  of  the  bullock  called  Hatadiya.^  On  this  animal 
no  burden  is  ever  laid,  but  he  is  decorated  with  streamers 
of  red-dyed  silk,  and  tinkling  bells  with  many  brass  chains 
and  rings  on  neck  and  feet,  and  silken  tassels  hanging  in  all 
directions  ;  he  moves  steadily  at  the  head  of  the  convoy, 
and  at  the  place  where  he  lies  down  when  he  is  tired  they 
pitch  their  camp  for  the  day  ;  at  his  feet  they  make  their 
vows  when  difficulties  overtake  them,  and  in  illness,  whether 
of  themselves  or  their  cattle,  they  trust  to  his  worship  for 
a  cure." 

Mr.  Balfour  also  mentions  in  his  paper  that  the  Banjaras 
call  themselves  Sikhs,  and  it  is  noticeable  that  the  Charan 
subcaste  say  that  their  ancestors  were  three  Rajput  boys  who 
followed  Guru  Nanak,  the  prophet  of  the  Sikhs.  The  influ- 
ence of  Nanak  appears  to  have  been  widely  extended  over 
northern  India,  and  to  have  been  felt  by  large  bodies  of  the 
people  other  than  those  who  actually  embraced  the  Sikh 
religion.  Cumberlege  states  ■*  that  before  starting  to  his 
marriage  the  bridegroom  ties  a  rupee  in  his  turban  in  honour 
of  Guru  Nanak,  which  is  afterwards  expended  in  sweetmeats. 

'  Cumberlege,  p.  21. 

2  The  followini;  instance  is  taken 
from  Mr.  I'alfour's  article,  '  Migratory 
Tribes  of  Central  India,'  inJ.A.S.B., 
new  series,   vol.   xiii.,  quoted   in  Mr. 

Crook  e's  Tribes  and  Castes. 

^  From  the  Sanskrit  Hatya-adhya, 
meaning  '  That  which  it  is  most  sinful 
to  slay '  (Balfour). 

*  Monograph,  p.  12. 

11  WrrCIICRAFT  179 

But  otherwise  the  modern  Banjaras  do  not  appear  to  retain 
any  Sikh  observances. 

"The  Banjaras,"  Sir  A.  L}all  writes/  "are  terribly  vexed  15.  vvitch- 
by  witchcraft,  to  which  their  wandcrin<^  and  precarious  exist-  '^'^'^ '' 
cnce  especially  exposes  them  in  the  shape  of  fever,  rheuma- 
tism and  dysentery.  Solemn  inquiries  are  still  held  in  the 
wild  jungles  where  these  people  camp  out  like  gipsies,  and 
many  an  unlucky  hag  has  been  strangled  by  sentence  of  their 
secret  tribunals."  The  business  of  magic  and  witchcraft  was 
in  the  hands  of  two  classes  of  Bhagats  or  magicians,  one 
good  and  the  other  bad,"  who  may  correspond  to  the  Euro- 
pean practitioners  of  black  and  white  magic.  The  good 
Bhagat  is  called  Nimbu-katna  or  lemon -cutter,  a  lemon 
speared  on  a  knife  being  a  powerful  averter  of  evil  spirits. 
He  is  a  total  abstainer  from  meat  and  liquor,  and  fasts 
once  a  week  on  the  day  sacred  to  the  deity  whom  he 
venerates,  usually  Mahadeo  ;  he  is  highly  respected  and 
never  panders  to  vice.  But  the  Janta,  the  '  Wise  or 
Cunning  Man,'  is  of  a  different  type,  and  the  following 
is  an  account  of  the  devilry  often  enacted  when  a  deputa- 
tion visited  him  to  inquire  into  the  cause  of  a  prolonged 
illness,  a  cattle  murrain,  a  sudden  death  or  other  misfortune. 
A  woman  might  often  be  called  a  Dakun  or  witch  in 
spite,  and  when  once  this  word  had  been  used,  the  husband 
or  nearest  male  relative  would  be  regularly  bullied  into 
consulting  the  Janta.  Or  if  some  woman  had  been  ill  for 
a  week,  an  avaricious  ^  husband  or  brother  would  begin  to 
whisper  foul  play.  Witchcraft  would  be  mentioned,  and 
the  wise  man  called  in.  He  would  give  the  sufferer  a  quid 
of  betel,  muttering  an  incantation,  but  this  rarely  effected  a 
cure,  as  it  was  against  the  interest  of  all  parties  that  it  should 
do  so.  The  sufferer's  relatives  would  then  go  to  their  Naik, 
tell  him  that  the  sick  person  was  bewitched,  and  ask  him  to 
send  a  deputation  to  the  Janta  or  witch-doctor.  This  would 
be  at  once  despatched,  consisting  of  one  male  adult  from 
each  house  in  the  hamlet,  with  one  of  the  sufferer's  relatives. 
On  the  road  the  party  would  bury  a  bone  or  other  article  to 

1  Asiatic Stttdies,\.  p.  Ii8(ed.  1899).       produced  from  his  Monograph. 

2  Cumberlege,    p.    23   et  seq.     The  ^  His  motive  being  the  fine  inflicted 
description  of  witchcraft  is  wholly  re-       on  the  witch's  famih-. 

i8o  BANJARA  part 

test  the  wisdom  of  the  witch-doctor.  But  he  was  not  to  be 
caught  out,  and  on  their  arrival  he  would  bid  the  deputation 
rest,  and  come  to  him  for  consultation  on  the  following  day. 
Meanwhile  during  the  night  the  Janta  would  be  thoroughly 
coached  by  some  accomplice  in  the  party.  Next  morning, 
meeting  the  deputation,  he  would  tell  every  man  all  particu- 
lars of  his  name  and  family  ;  name  the  invalid,  and  tell  the 
party  to  bring  materials  for  consulting  the  spirits,  such  as  oil, 
vermilion,  sugar,  dates,  cocoanut,  chironji}  and  sesamum. 
In  the  evening,  holding  a  lamp,  the  Janta  would  be  possessed 
by  Mariai,  the  goddess  of  cholera  ;  he  would  mention  all 
particulars  of  the  sick  man's  illness,  and  indignantly  inquire 
why  they  had  buried  the  bone  on  the  road,  naming  it  and 
describing  the  place.  If  this  did  not  satisfy  the  deputation, 
a  goat  would  be  brought,  and  he  would  name  its  sex  with 
any  distinguishing  marks  on  the  body.  The  sick  person's 
representative  would  then  produce  his  iiazar  or  fee,  formerly 
Rs.  25,  but  lately  the  double  of  this  or  more.  The  Janta 
would  now  begin  a  sort  of  chant,  introducing  the  names  of 
the  families  of  the  kuri  other  than  that  containing  her  who 
was  to  be  proclaimed  a  witch,  and  heap  on  them  all  kinds  of 
abuse.  Finally,  he  would  assume  an  ironic  tone,  extol  the 
virtues  of  a  certain  family,  become  facetious,  and  praise  its 
representative  then  present.  This  man  would  then  question 
the  Janta  on  all  points  regarding  his  own  family,  his  connec- 
tions, worldly  goods,  and  what  gods  he  worshipped,  ask  who 
was  the  witch,  who  taught  her  sorcery,  and  how  and  why 
she  practised  it  in  this  particular  instance.  But  the  witch- 
doctor, having  taken  care  to  be  well  coached,  would  answer 
everything  correctly  and  fix  the  guilt  on  to  the  witch.  A  goat 
would  be  sacrificed  and  eaten  with  liquor,  and  the  deputation 
would  return.  The  punishment  for  being  proclaimed  a 
Dakun  or  witch  was  formerly  death  to  the  woman  and  a  fine 
to  be  paid  by  her  relatives  to  the  bewitched  person's  family. 
The  woman's  husband  or  her  sons  would  be  directed  to  kill 
her,  and  if  they  refused,  other  men  were  deputed  to  murder 
her,  and  bury  the  body  at  once  with  all  the  clothing  and 
ornaments  then  on  her  person,  while  a  further  fine  would  be 
exacted  from  the  family  for  not  doing  away  with  her  themselves. 

1  The  fruil  of  Buchanania  latifolia. 


But  murder  for  witchcraft  has  been  almost  entirely  stopped, 
and  nowadays  the  husband,  after  being  fined  a  i^w  head  of 
cattle,  which  are  given  to  the  sick  man,  is  turned  out  of  the 
village  with  his  wife.  It  is  quite  possible,  however,  that  an 
obnoxious  old  hag  would  even  now  not  escape  death,  especi- 
ally if  the  money  fine  were  not  forthcoming,  and  an  instance 
is  known  in  recent  times  of  a  mother  being  murdered  by  her 
three  sons.  The  whole  village  combined  to  screen  these 
amiable  young  men,  and  eventually  they  made  the  Janta  the 
scapegoat,  and  he  got  seven  years,  while  the  murderers 
could  not  be  touched.  Colonel  Mackenzie  writes  that, 
"  Curious  to  relate,  the  Jantas,  known  locally  as  Bhagats,  in 
order  to  become  possessed  of  their  alleged  powers  of  divina- 
tion and  prophecy,  require  to  travel  to  Kazhe,  beyond  Surat, 
there  to  learn  and  be  instructed  by  low-caste  Koli  impostors." 
This  is  interesting  as  an  instance  of  the  powers  of  witchcraft 
being  attributed  by  the  Hindus  or  higher  race  to  the  indi- 
genous primitive  tribes,  a  rule  which  Dr.  Tylor  and  Dr. 
Jevons  consider  to  hold  good  generally  in  the  history  of  magic. 

Several  instances  are  known  also  of  the  Banjaras  having  i6.  Human 
practised  human  sacrifice.  Mr.  Thurston  states  :  ^  "  In  ^ 
former  times  the  Lambadis,  before  setting  out  on  a  journey, 
used  to  procure  a  little  child  and  bury  it  in  the  ground  up 
to  the  shoulders,  and  then  drive  their  loaded  bullocks  over 
the  unfortunate  victim.  In  proportion  to  the  bullocks 
thoroughly  trampling  the  child  to  death,  so  their  belief  in  a 
successful  journey  increased."  The  Abbe  Dubois  describes 
another  form  of  sacrifice  : " 

"  The  Lambadis  are  accused  of  the  still  more  atrocious 
crime  of  offering  up  human  sacrifices.  When  they  wish  to 
perform  this  horrible  act,  it  is  said,  they  secretly  carry  off  the 
first  person  they  meet.  Having  conducted  the  victim  to 
some  lonely  spot,  they  dig  a  hole  in  which  they  bury  him  up 
to  the  neck.  While  he  is  still  alive  they  make  a  sort  of 
lamp  of  dough  made  of  flour,  which  they  place  on  his  head  ; 
this  they  fill  with  oil,  and  light  four  wicks  in  it.  Having 
done   this,  the   men   and  women  join   hands  and,  forming   a 

1   Ethnographic  Notes    in    Southern  -  Hindu     Manners,     Customs    and 

India,  p.  507,  quoting  from  the  Rev.        Ceremonies,  p.  70. 
J.  Cain,  Ind.  Ant.  viii.  (1879). 



17.  Ad- 
mission of 
outsiders  : 

circle,  dance  round  their  victim,  singing  and  making  a  great 
noise  until  he  expires."  Mr.  Cumberlege  records  ^  the  fol- 
lowing statement  of  a  child  kidnapped  by  a  Banjara  caravan 
in  I  87  I.  After  explaining  how  he  was  kidnapped  and  the 
tip  of  his  tongue  cut  off  to  give  him  a  defect  in  speech, 
the  Kunbi  lad,  taken  from  Sahungarhi,  in  the  Bhandara 
District,  went  on  to  say  that,  "  The  tdnda  (caravan)  encamped 
for  the  night  in  the  jungle.  In  the  morning  a  woman  named 
Gangi  said  that  the  devil  was  in  her  and  that  a  sacrifice  must 
be  made.  On  this  four  men  and  three  women  took  a  boy  to 
a  place  they  had  made  for  puja  (worship).  They  fed  him 
with  milk,  rice  and  sugar,  and  then  made  him  stand  up,  when 
Gangi  drew  a  sword  and  approached  the  child,  who  tried  to 
run  away  ;  caught  and  brought  back  to  this  place,  Gangi, 
holding  the  sword  with  both  hands  and  standing  on  the 
child's  right  side,  cut  off  his  head  with  one  blow.  Gangi  col- 
lected the  blood  and  sprinkled  it  on  the  idol  ;  this  idol  is 
made  of  stone,  is  about  9  inches  high,  and  has  something 
sparkling  in  its  forehead.  The  camp  marched  that  day,  and 
for  four  or  five  days  consecutively,  without  another  sacrifice  ; 
but  on  the  fifth  day  a  young  woman  came  to  the  camp  to 
sell  curds,  and  having  bought  some,  the  Banjaras  asked  her 
to  come  in  in  the  evening  and  eat  with  them.  She  did  come, 
and  after  eating  with  the  women  slept  in  the  camp.  Early 
next  morning  she  was  sacrificed  in  the  same  way  as  the  boy 
had  been,  but  it  took  three  blows  to  cut  ofif  her  head  ;  it  was 
done  by  Gangi,  and  the  blood  was  sprinkled  on  the  stone 
idol.  About  a  month  ago  Sitaram,  a  Gond  lad,  who  had 
also  been  kidnapped  and  was  in  the  camp,  told  me  to  run 
away  as  it  had  been  decided  to  offer  me  up  in  sacrifice  at 
the  next  Jiuti  festival,  so  I  ran  away."  The  child  having 
been  brought  to  the  police,  a  searching  and  protracted  in- 
quiry was  held,  which,  however,  determined  nothing,  though 
it  did  not  disprove  his  story. 

The  Banjara  caste  is  not  closed  to  outsiders,  but  the 
general  rule  is  to  admit  only  women  who  have  been  married 
to   Banjara  men.      Women  of  the  lowest  and   impure  castes 


children      ^^^  cxcludcd,  and  for  some  unknown  reason  the  Patwas "  and 

and  slaves. 

'  Monograph,  p.  19. 

2  The  Patwas  are  weavers   of  silk 

thread  and  the  Nunias  are  masons  and 


Nunias  arc  bracketed  with  these.  In  Nimar  it  is  stated 
that  formerly  Gonds,  Korkus  and  even  Balahis  ^  might 
become  Banjaras,  but  this  does  not  happen  now,  because 
the  caste  has  lost  its  occupation  of  carrying  goods,  and  there 
is  therefore  no  inducement  to  enter  it.  In  former  times 
they  were  much  addicted  to  kidnapping  children — these 
were  whipped  up  or  enticed  away  whenever  an  opportunity 
presented  itself  during  their  expeditions.  The  children  were 
first  put  into  the  gotiis  or  grain  bags  of  the  bullocks  and  so 
carried  for  a  few  days,  being  made  over  at  each  halt  to  the 
care  of  a  woman,  who  would  pop  the  child  back  into  its 
bag  if  any  stranger  passed  by  the  encampment.  The 
tongues  of  boys  were  sometimes  slit  or  branded  with  hot 
gold,  this  last  being  the  ceremony  of  initiation  into  the 
caste  still  used  in  Nimar.  Girls,  if  they  were  as  old  as  seven, 
were  sometimes  disfigured  for  fear  of  recognition,  and  for 
this  purpose  the  juice  of  the  marking-nut^  tree  would  be 
smeared  on  one  side  of  the  face,  which  burned  into  the 
skin  and  entirely  altered  the  appearance.  Such  children 
were  known  as  Jangar.  Girls  would  be  used  as  concubines 
and  servants  of  the  married  wife,  and  boys  would  also  be 
employed  as  servants.  Jangar  boys  would  be  married  to 
Jangar  girls,  both  remaining  in  their  condition  of  servitude. 
But  sometimes  the  more  enterprising  of  them  would 
abscond  and  settle  down  in  a  village.  The  rule  was  that 
for  seven  generations  the  children  of  Jangars  or  slaves 
continued  in  that  condition,  after  which  they  were  recog- 
nised as  proper  Banjaras.  The  Jangar  could  not  draw 
in  smoke  through  the  stem  of  the  huqqa  when  it  was 
passed  round  in  the  assembly,  but  must  take  off  the  stem 
and  inhale  from  the  bowl.  The  Jangar  also  could  not 
eat  off  the  bell-metal  plates  of  his  master,  because  these 
were  liable  to  pollution,  but  must  use  brass  plates.  At 
one  time  the  Banjaras  conducted  a  regular  traffic  in 
female  slaves  between  Gujarat  and  Central  India,  selling 
in  each  country  the  girls  whom  they  had  kidnapped  in 
the  other.^ 

1   An  impure  caste  of  weavers,  rank-  ^  Malcolm.     Memoir     of     Central 

in;4  with  the  Mahars.  India,  ii.  p.  296. 

-  Seniecarpns  Anacardiuiii. 

1 84  BANJARA  part 

i8.  Dress.  Up  to  twelve  years  of  age  a  Charan  girl  only  wears  a 

skirt  with  a  shoulder-cloth  tucked  into  the  waist  and  carried 
over  the  left  arm  and  the  head.  After  this  she  may  have 
anklets  and  bangles  on  the  forearm  and  a  breast -cloth. 
But  until  she  is  married  she  may  not  have  the  zudnkri  or 
curved  anklet,  which  marks  that  estate,  nor  wear  bone  or 
ivory  bangles  on  the  upper  arm.^  When  she  is  ten  years  old 
a  Labhana  girl  is  given  two  small  bundles  containing  a  nut, 
some  cowries  and  rice,  which  are  knotted  to  two  corners  of 
the  dupatta  or  shoulder-cloth  and  hung  over  the  shoulder, 
one  in  front  and  one  behind.  This  denotes  maidenhood. 
The  bundles  are  considered  sacred,  are  always  knotted  to  the 
shoulder-cloth  in  wear,  and  are  only  removed  to  be  tucked 
into  the  waist  at  the  girl's  marriage,  where  they  are  worn 
till  death.  These  bundles  alone  distinguish  the  Labhana 
from  the  Mathuria  woman.  Women  often  have  their  hair 
hanging  down  beside  the  face  in  front  and  woven  behind 
with  silver  thread  into  a  plait  down  the  back.  This  is 
known  as  Anthi,  and  has  a  number  of  cowries  at  the  end. 
They  have  large  bell-shaped  ornaments  of  silver  tied  over 
the  head  and  hanging  down  behind  the  ears,  the  hollow 
part  of  the  ornament  being  stuffed  with  sheep's  wool  dyed 
red  ;  and  to  these  are  attached  little  bells,  while  the  anklets 
on  the  feet  are  also  hollow  and  contain  little  stones  or  balls, 
which  tinkle  as  they  move.  They  have  skirts,  and  separate 
short  cloths  drawn  across  the  shoulders  according  to  the 
northern  fashion,  usually  red  or  green  in  colour,  and  along 
the  skirt-borders  double  lines  of  cowries  are  sewn.  Their 
breast-cloths  are  profusely  ornamented  with  needle-work 
embroidery  and  small  pieces  of  glass  sewn  into  them,  and 
are  tied  behind  with  cords  of  many  colours  whose  ends  are 
decorated  with  cowries  and  beads.  Strings  of  beads,  ten  to 
twenty  thick,  threaded  on  horse-hair,  are  worn  round  the 
neck.       Their    favourite    ornaments    are    cowries,'   and   they 

'  Cumberlege,  p.  i6.  change  for  a  rupee  could  not  be  had 

'^  Small  double  shells  which  are  still  in  Chhattlsgarh  outside  the  two  prin- 

used  to  a  slight  e.Ktent  as  a  currency  in  cipal    towns.       As    the    cowries    were 

backward    tracts.      This   would    seem  a   form  of   currency  they    were  prob- 

an    impossibly    cumbrous   method     of  ably    held    sacred,    and    hence    sewn 

carrying  money  about  nowadays,  but  I  on    to    clothes    as    a    charm,    just    as 

have  been  informed  by  a  comparatively  gold    and    silver    are    used    for    orna- 

young  official  that  in  his  father's  lime,  ments. 



have  these  on  their  dress,  in  their  liouses  and  on  the 
trappinj^s  of  their  bullocks.  On  the  arms  they  have  ten  or 
twelve  bangles  of  ivory,  or  in  default  of  this  lac,  horn  or 
cocoanut-shell.  Mr.  Ball  states  that  he  was  "at  once 
struck  by  the  peculiar  costumes  and  brilliant  clothing  of 
these  Indian  gipsies.  They  recalled  to  my  mind  the  appear- 
ance of  the  gipsies  of  the  Lower  Danube  and  Wallachia."  ^ 
The  most  distinctive  ornament  of  a  Banjara  married  woman 
is,  however,  a  small  stick  about  6  inches  long  made  of  the 
wood  of  the  kJiair  or  catechu.  In  Nimar  this  is  given  to  a 
woman  by  her  husband  at  marriage,  and  she  wears  it  after- 
wards placed  upright  on  the  top  of  the  head,  the  hair 
being  wound  round  it  and  the  head-cloth  draped  over  it  in 
a  graceful  fashion.  Widows  leave  it  off,  but  on  remarriage 
adopt  it  again.  The  stick  is  known  as  chunda  by  the 
Banjaras,  but  outsiders  call  it  singh  or  horn.  In  Yeotmal, 
instead  of  one,  the  women  have  two  little  sticks  fixed 
upright  in  the  hair.  The  rank  of  the  woman  is  said  to  be 
shown  by  the  angle  at  which  she  wears  this  horn."  The 
dress  of  the  men  presents  no  features  of  special  interest. 
In  Nimar  they  usually  have  a  necklace  of  coral  beads,  and 
some  of  them   carry,  slung  on   a   thread   round   the   neck,  a 

^  Jtmgic  Life  in  India,  p.  516. 

^  Brewer's  Dictionary  of  Phrase  and 
Fable  contains  the  following  notice  of 
horns  as  an  article  of  dress :  "  Mr. 
Buckingham  says  of  a  Tyrian  lady, 
'  She  wore  on  her  head  a  hollow  silver 
horn  rearing  itself  up  obliquely  from 
the  forehead.  It  was  some  four  inches 
in  diameter  at  the  root  and  pointed 
at  the  extremity.  This  peculiarity  re- 
minded me  forcibly  of  the  expression 
of  the  Psalmist  :  "  Lift  not  up  your 
horn  on  high  ;  speak  not  with  a  stiff 
neck.  All  the  horns  of  the  wicked 
also  will  I  cut  off,  but  the  horns  of  the 
righteous  shall  be  exalted"  (Ps.  Ixxv. 
5,  10).'  Bruce  found  in  Abyssinia  the 
silver  horns  of  warriors  and  distin- 
guished men.  In  the  reign  of  Henry 
V.  the  horned  headgear  was  introduced 
into  England  and  from  the  effigy  of 
Beatrice,  Countess  of  Arundel,  at 
Arundel  Church,  who  is  represented 
with  the  horns  outspread  to  a  great 
extent,  we  may  infer  that  the  length 

of  the  head -horn,  like  the  length  of 
the  shoe -point  in  the  reign  of  Henry 
VI.,  etc.,  marked  the  degree  of  rank. 
To  cut  off  such  horns  would  be  to 
degrade  ;  and  to  exalt  and  extend  such 
horns  would  be  to  add  honour  and 
dignity  to  the  wearer."  Webb  {Herit- 
age of  Dress,  p.  117)  writes:  "Mr. 
Elworthy  in  a  paper  to  the  British 
Association  at  Ipswich  in  1865  con- 
sidered the  crown  to  be  a  development 
from  horns  of  honour.  He  maintained 
that  the  symbols  found  in  the  head  of 
the  god  Serapis  were  the  elements 
from  which  were  formed  the  composite 
head-dress  called  the  crown  into  which 
horns  entered  to  a  very  great  extent." 
This  seems  a  doubtful  speculation,  but 
still  it  may  be  quite  possible  that  the 
idea  of  distinguishing  by  a  crown  the 
leader  of  the  tribe  was  originally  taken 
from  the  antlers  of  the  leader  of  the 
herd.  The  helmets  of  the  Vikings 
were  also,  I  believe,  decorated  with 

1 86  BANJARA  part 

tin  tooth-pick  and  ear-scraper,  while  a  small  mirror  and 
comb  are  kept  in  the  head-cloth  so  that  their  toilet  can  be 
performed  anywhere. 

Mr.  Cumberlege  ^  notes  that  in  former  times  all  Charan 
Banjaras  when  carrying  grain  for  an  army  placed  a  twig 
of  some  tree,  the  sacred  nlui "  when  available,  in  their 
turban  to  show  that  they  were  on  the  war-path  ;  and 
that  they  would  do  the  same  now  if  they  had  occasion  to 
fight  to  the  death  on  any  social  matter  or  under  any  sup- 
posed grievance. 

The  Banjaras  eat  all  kinds  of  meat,  including  fowls  and 
pork,  and  drink  liquor.  But  the  Mathurias  abstain  from 
both  flesh  and  liquor.  Major  Gunthorpe  states  that  the 
Banjaras  are  accustomed  to  drink  before  setting  out  for  a 
dacoity  or  robbery  and,  as  they  smoke  after  drinking,  the 
remains  of  leaf-pipes  lying  about  the  scene  of  action  may 
indicate  their  handiwork.  They  rank  below  the  cultivating 
castes,  and  Brahmans  will  not  take  water  to  drink  from 
them.  When  engaged  in  the  carrying  trade,  they  usually 
lived  in  kun's  or  hamlets  attached  to  such  regular  villages 
as  had  considerable  tracts  of  waste  land  belonging  to  them. 
When  the  tdnda  or  caravan  started  on  its  long  carrying 
trips,  the  young  men  and  some  of  the  women  went  with  it 
with  the  working  bullocks,  while  the  old  men  and  the 
remainder  of  the  women  and  children  remained  to  tend  the 
breeding  cattle  in  the  hamlet.  In  Nimar  they  generally 
rented  a  little  land  in  the  village  to  give  them  a  footing, 
and  paid  also  a  carrying  fee  on  the  number  of  cattle  present. 
Their  spare  time  was  constantly  occupied  in  the  manufacture 
of  hempen  twine  and  sacking,  which  was  much  superior  to 
that  obtainable  in  towns.  Even  in  Captain  Forsyth's  ^  time 
(1866)  the  construction  of  raihvays  and  roads  had  seriously 
interfered  with  the  Banjaras'  calling,  and  the}'  had  perforce 
taken  to  agriculture.  Many  of  them  have  settled  in  the 
new  ryotwari  villages  in  Nimar  as  Government  tenants. 
They  still  grow  tilW^  in  preference  to  other  crops,  because 
this  oilseed  can  be  raised  without  much  labour  or  skill,  and 
during  their  former  nomadic   life  they  were   accustomed   to 

*  Monograph,  p.  40.  ^  Author  of  the  Niutar  Settlement  Report. 

2  Melia  indica.  ■*   Sesatmiiu. 


sow  it  on  any  poor  strip  of  land  wliich  they  might  rent  for 
a  season.  Some  of  them  also  are  accustomed  to  leave  a 
part  of  tiieir  holding  untilled  in  memory  of  their  former  and 
more  prosperous  life.  In  many  villages  they  have  not  yet 
built  proper  houses,  but  continue  to  live  in  mud  huts 
thatched  with  grass.  They  consider  it  unlucky  to  inhabit 
a  house  with  a  cement  or  tiled  roof;  this  being  no  doubt  a 
superstition  arising  from  their  camp  life.  Their  houses 
must  also  be  built  so  that  the  main  beams  do  not  cross, 
that  is,  the  main  beam  of  a  house  must  never  be  in  such  a 
position  that  if  projected  it  would  cut  another  main  beam  ; 
but  the  beams  may  be  parallel.  The  same  rule  probably 
governed  the  arrangement  of  tents  in  their  camps.  In 
Nimar  they  prefer  to  live  at  some  distance  from  water, 
probably  that  is  of  a  tank  or  river  ;  and  this  seems  to  be 
a  survival  of  a  usage  mentioned  by  the  Abbe  Dubois :  ^ 
"  Among  other  curious  customs  of  this  odious  caste  is  one 
that  obliges  them  to  drink  no  water  which  is  not  drawn 
from  springs  or  wells.  The  water  from  rivers  and  tanks 
being  thus  forbidden,  they  are  obliged  in  case  of  necessity 
to  dig  a  little  hole  by  the  side  of  a  tank  or  river  and  take 
the  water  filtering  through,  which,  by  this  means,  is  supposed 
to  become  spring  water."  It  is  possible  that  this  rule  may 
have  had  its  origin  in  a  sanitary  precaution.  Colonel 
Sleeman  notes  ^  that  the  Banjaras  on  their  carrying  trips 
preferred  by-paths  through  jungles  to  the  high  roads  along 
cultivated  plains,  as  grass,  wood  and  water  were  more 
abundant  along  such  paths  ;  and  when  they  could  not  avoid 
the  high  roads,  they  commonly  encamped  as  far  as  they 
could  from  villages  and  towns,  and  upon  the  banks  of  rivers 
and  streams,  with  the  same  object  of  obtaining  a  sufficient 
supply  of  grass,  wood  and  water.  Now  it  is  well  known 
that  the  decaying  vegetation  in  these  hill  streams  renders 
the  water  noxious  and  highly  productive  of  malaria.  And 
it  seems  possible  that  the  perception  of  this  fact  led  the 
Banjaras  to  dig  shallow  wells  by  the  sides  of  the  streams 
for  their  drinking-water,  so  that  the  supply  thus  obtained 
might  be  in  some  degree  filtered   by  percolation  through  the 

1   Hindu     Manners^     Citsloms    and  -  Report   on   the   Badhak   or  Bagri 

CercmoJiies,  p.  21.  Dacoits,  p.  310. 

1 88  BANJARA  part 

intervening  soil  and  freed  from  its  vegetable  germs.  And 
the  custom  may  have  grown  into  a  taboo,  its  underlying 
reason  being  unknown  to  the  bulk  of  them,  and  be  still 
practised,  though  no  longer  necessary  when  they  do  not 
travel.  If  this  explanation  be  correct  it  would  be  an 
interesting  conclusion  that  the  Banjaras  anticipated  so  far 
as  they  were  able  the  sanitary  precaution  by  which  our 
soldiers  are  supplied  with  portable  filters  when  on  the 

Each  kuri  (hamlet)  or  tdnda  (caravan)  had  a  chief  or 
leader  with  the  designation  of  Naik,  a  Telugu  word  meaning 
'  lord  '  or  '  master.'  The  office  of  Naik  ^  was  only  partly 
hereditary,  and  the  choice  also  depended  on  ability.  The 
Naik  had  authority  to  decide  all  disputes  in  the  communit}', 
and  the  only  appeal  from  him  lay  to  the  representatives  of 
Bhangi  and  Jhangi  Naik's  families  at  Narsi  and  Poona,  and 
to  Burthia  Naik's  successors  in  the  Telugu  country.  As 
already  seen,  the  Naik  received  two  shares  if  he  participated 
in  a  robbery  or  other  crime,  and  a  fee  on  the  remarriage  of 
a  widow  outside  her  family  and  on  the  discovery  of  a  witch. 
Another  matter  in  which  he  was  specially  interested  was 
pig-sticking.  The  Banjaras  have  a  particular  breed  of 
dogs,  and  with  these  they  were  accustomed  to  hunt  wild 
pig  on  foot,  carrying  spears.  When  a  pig  was  killed,  the 
head  was  cut  off  and  presented  to  the  Naik  or  head- 
man, and  if  any  man  was  injured  or  gored  by  the  pig  in 
the  hunt,  the  Naik  kept  and  fed  him  without  charge  until 
he  recovered. 

The  following  notice  of  the  Banjaras  and  their  dogs 
may  be  reproduced  : '"  "  They  are  brave  and  have  the 
reputation  of  great  independence,  which  I  am  not  disposed 
to  allow  to  them.  The  Wanjari  indeed  is  insolent  on  the 
road,  and  will  drive  his  bullocks  up  against  a  Sahib  or 
any  one  else  ;  but  at  any  disadvantage  he  is  abject  enough. 
I  remember  one  who  rather  enjoyed  seeing  his  dogs  attack 
me,  whom  he  supposed  alone  and  unarmed,  but  the  sight 
of  a  cocked  pistol  made  him  very  quick  in  calling  them  off, 
and  very  humble  in  praying  for  their  lives,  which    I   spared, 

'   Colonel  Mackenzie's  notes. 
-  -Mr.  W.  !•'.  Sinclair,  C.S.,  in  Ind.  An/,  iii.  p.   1S4  {1S74). 

II  THK  NAIK  OR  f / J'.A P M A N—  HA NJ A RA  DOGS         189 

less  for  liis  entreaties  than  because  they  were  really  noble 
animals.  The  Wanjaris  arc  famous  for  their  doi^s,  of  which 
tiicre  are  three  breeds.  The  first  is  a  large,  smooth  dog, 
generally  black,  sometimes  fawn-coloured,  with  a  square 
heavy  head,  most  resembling  the  Danish  boarhound.  This 
is  the  true  Wanjari  dog.  The  second  is  also  a  large, 
square-headed  dog,  but  shaggy,  more  like  a  great  underbred 
spaniel  than  anything  else.  The  third  is  an  almost  tailless 
greyhound,  of  the  type  known  all  over  India  by  the 
various  names  of  Lat,  Polygar,  Rampuri,  etc.  They  all 
run  both  by  sight  and  scent,  and  with  their  help  the 
Wanjaris  kill  a  good  deal  of  game,  chiefly  pigs  ;  but  I 
think  they  usually  keep  clear  of  the  old  fighting  boars. 
Besides  sport  and  their  legitimate  occupations  the  Wanjaris 
seldom  stickle  at  supplementing  their  resources  by  theft, 
especially  of  cattle ;  and  they  are  more  than  suspected 
of  infanticide." 

The  Banjaras  are  credited  with  great  affection  for  their 
dogs,  and  the  following  legend  is  told  about  one  of  them  : 
Once  upon  a  time  a  Banjara,  who  had  a  faithful  dog,  took  a 
loan  from  a  Bania  (moneylender)  and  pledged  his  dog  with 
him  as  security  for  payment.  And  some  time  afterwards, 
while  the  dog  was  with  the  moneylender,  a  theft  was  com- 
mitted in  his  house,  and  the  dog  followed  the  thieves  and 
saw  them  throw  the  property  into  a  tank.  When  they 
went  away  the  dog  brought  the  Bania  to  the  tank  and  he 
found  his  property.  He  was  therefore  very  pleased  with 
the  dog  and  wrote  a  letter  to  his  master,  saying  that  the 
loan  was  repaid,  and  tied  it  round  his  neck  and  said  to 
him,  *  Now,  go  back  to  your  master.'  So  the  dog  started 
back,  but  on  his  way  he  met  his  master,  the  Banjara, 
coming  to  the  Bania  with  the  money  for  the  repayment 
of  the  loan.  And  when  the  Banjara  saw  the  dog  he  was 
angry  with  him,  not  seeing  the  letter,  and  thinking  he  had 
run  away,  and  said  to  him,  '  Why  did  you  come,  betraying 
your  trust  ?  '  and  he  killed  the  dog  in  a  rage.  And  after 
killing  him  he  found  the  letter  and  was  very  grieved,  so  he 
built  a  temple  to  the  dog's  memory,  which  is  called  the 
Kukurra  Mandhi.  And  in  the  temple  is  the  image  of  a 
dog.      This  temple  is  in  the  Drug   District,  five  miles  from 

I  go  BANJARA  part 

Balod.      A  similar  story  is  told  of  the  temple  of  Kukurra 
Math  in  Mandla. 

The  following  notice  of  Banjara  criminals  is  abstracted 
from  Major  Gunthorpe's  interesting  account:^  "In  the 
palmy  days  of  the  tribe  dacoities  were  undertaken  on  the 
most  extensive  scale.  Gangs  of  fifty  to  a  hundred  and  fifty 
well-armed  men  would  go  long  distances  from  their  tdndas 
or  encampments  for  the  purpose  of  attacking  houses  in  villages, 
or  treasure-parties  or  wealthy  travellers  on  the  high  roads. 
The  more  intimate  knowledge  which  the  police  have  obtained 
concerning  the  habits  of  this  race,  and  the  detection  and 
punishment  of  many  criminals  through  approvers,  have  aided 
in  stopping  the  heavy  class  of  dacoities  formerly  prevalent, 
and  their  operations  are  now  on  a  much  smaller  scale.  In 
British  territory  arms  are  scarcely  carried,  but  each  man  has 
a  good  stout  stick  {gedi),  the  bark  of  which  is  peeled  off  so 
as  to  make  it  look  whitish  and  fresh.  The  attack  is  generally 
commenced  by  stone -throwing  and  then  a  rush  is  made, 
the  sticks  being  freely  used  and  the  victims  almost  invariably 
struck  about  the  head  or  face.  While  plundering,  Hindustani 
is  sometimes  spoken,  but  as  a  rule  they  never  utter  a  word, 
but  grunt  signals  to  one  another.  Their  loin-cloths  are 
braced  up,  nothing  is  worn  on  the  upper  part  of  the  body, 
and  their  faces  are  generally  muffled.  In  house  dacoities 
men  are  posted  at  different  corners  of  streets,  each  with  a 
supply  of  well-chosen  round  stones  to  keep  off  any  people 
coming  to  the  rescue.  Banjaras  are  very  expert  cattle- 
lifters,  sometimes  taking  as  many  as  a  hundred  head  or 
even  more  at  a  time.  This  kind  of  robbery  is  usually 
practised  in  hilly  or  forest  country  where  the  cattle  are 
sent  to  graze.  Secreting  themselves  they  watch  for  the 
herdsman  to  have  his  usual  midday  doze  and  for  the  cattle 
to  stray  to  a  little  distance.  As  many  as  possible  are 
then  driven  off  to  a  great  distance  and  secreted  in  ravines 
and  woods.  If  questioned  they  answer  that  the  animals 
belong  to  landowners  and  have  been  given  into  their  charge 
to  graze,  and  as  this  is  done  every  day  the  questioner 
thinks    nothing  more  of    it.      After   a    time   the   cattle    are 

1  Azotes  on   Criminal    Tribes  frequenting  Bombay^   Berar  and  the   Central 
Provinces  (Bombay,  1882). 


quietly   sold  to    individual    purchasers  or   taken    to  markets 
at  a  distance. 

The  Banjfiras,  however,  are  far  from  being  wholly  22.  Their 
criminal,  and  the  number  who  have  adopted  an  honest  ^"  "^^' 
mode  of  livelihood  is  continually  on  the  increase.  Some 
allowance  must  be  made  for  their  having  been  deprived  of 
their  former  calling  by  the  cessation  of  the  continual  wars 
which  distracted  India  under  native  rule,  and  the  extension 
of  roads  and  railways  which  has  rendered  their  mode 
of  transport  by  pack  -  bullocks  almost  entirely  obsolete. 
At  one  time  practically  all  the  grain  exported  from 
Chhattlsgarh  was  carried  by  them.  In  1881  Mr.  Kitts 
noted  that  the  number  of  Banjaras  convicted  in  the  Berar 
criminal  courts  was  lower  in  proportion  to  the  strength  of 
the  caste  than  that  of  Muhammadans,  Brahmans,  Koshtis 
or  Sunars,^  though  the  offences  committed  by  them  were 
usually  more  heinous.  Colonel  Mackenzie  had  quite  a 
favourable  opinion  of  them  :  "  A  Banjara  who  can  read 
and  write  is  unknown.  But  their  memories,  from  cultiva- 
tion, are  marvellous  and  very  retentive.  They  carry  in 
their  heads,  without  slip  or  mistake,  the  most  varied  and 
complicated  transactions  and  the  share  of  each  in  such, 
striking  a  debtor  and  creditor  account  as  accurately  as  the 
best -kept  ledger,  while  their  history  and  songs  are  all 
learnt  by  heart  and  transmitted  orally  from  generation  to 
generation.  On  the  whole,  and  taken  rightly  in  their 
clannish  nature,  their  virtues  preponderate  over  their  vices. 
In  the  main  they  are  truthful  and  very  brave,  be  it  in 
war  or  the  chase,  and  once  gained  over  are  faithful  and 
devoted  adherents.  With  the  pride  of  high  descent  and 
with  the  right  that  might  gives  in  unsettled  and  troublous 
times,  these  Banjaras  habitually  lord  it  over  and  contemn 
the  settled  inhabitants  of  the  plains.  And  now  not  having 
foreseen  their  own  fate,  or  at  least  not  timely  having  read 
the  warnings  given  by  a  yearly  diminishing  occupation, 
which  slowly  has  taken  their  bread  away,  it  is  a  bitter  pill 
for  them  to  sink  into  the  ryot  class  or,  oftener  still,  under 
stern  necessity  to  become  the  ryot's  servant.  But  they 
are  settling  to  their    fate,  and   the    time   must  come  when 

'  Berar  Census  Report  (iSSi),  p.  1 51. 


all   their  peculiar  distinctive    marks  and   traditions   will    be 

I.  Origin  Barai/  Tamboli,  Pansari. — The  caste  of  growers  and 

^"  J. .          sellers   of   the    betel-vine   leaf      The   three    terms    are    used 


indifferently  for  the  caste  in  the  Central  Provinces,  although 
some  shades  of  variation  in  the  meaning  can  be  detected  even 
here — Barai  signifying  especially  one  who  grows  the  betel- 
vine,  and  Tamboli  the  seller  of  the  prepared  leaf ;  while 
Pansari,  though  its  etymological  meaning  is  also  a  dealer  in 
pan  or  betel-vine  leaves,  is  used  rather  in  the  general  sense 
of  a  druggist  or  grocer,  and  is  apparently  applied  to  the 
Barai  caste  because  its  members  commonly  follow  this 
occupation.  In  Bengal,  however,  Barai  and  Tamboli  are 
distinct  castes,  the  occupations  of  growing  and  selling  the 
betel-leaf  being  there  separately  practised.  And  they  have 
been  shown  as  different  castes  in  the  India  Census  Tables  of 
1 90 1,  though  it  is  perhaps  doubtful  whether  the  distinction 
holds  good  in  northern  India."  In  the  Central  Provinces 
and  Berar  the  Barais  numbered  nearly  60,000  persons  in 
191  I.  They  reside  principally  in  the  Amraoti,  Buldana, 
Nagpur,  Wardha,  Saugor  and  Jubbulpore  Districts.  The 
betel-vine  is  grown  principally  in  the  northern  Districts  of 
Saugor,  Damoh  and  Jubbulpore  and  in  those  of  Berar  and 
the  Nagpur  plain.  It  is  noticeable  also  that  the  growers  and 
sellers  of  the  betel-vine  numbered  only  14,000  in  191 1  out 
of  33,000  actual  workers  of  the  Barai  caste;  so  that  the 
majority  of  them  are  now  employed  in  ordinary  agriculture, 
field-labour  and  other  avocations.  No  very  probable  deriva- 
tion has  been  obtained  for  the  word  Barai,  unless  it  comes 
from  bdri,  a  hedge  or  enclosure,  and  simply  means 
'  gardener.'  Another  derivation  is  from  bardna,  to  avert 
hailstorms,  a  calling  which  they  still  practise  in  northern 
India.       Pdn^    from    the    Sanskrit  parna    (leaf),    is    the    leaf 

1  This  notice  is  compiled  principally  niukh,    Deputy   Inspector   of  Schools, 

from    a    good    paper    by    Mr.    M.    C.  Nagpur. 
Chatterji,  retired  Extra  Assistant  Com- 
missioner, Jubbulpore,  and  from  papers  ^  %\\&xx\r\g^Hindii  Tribes a7id Castes, 

by    Professor    Sada    Shiva   Jai    Ram,  i.   p.   330.      Nesfield,  B?-ief   Viezv,   p. 

M.A.,    Government    College,   Jubbul-  15.    N.M^.P.  Cens2is  ReJ>ort  (i^gi),^^ 

pore,  and  Mr.  Bhaskar  Baji  Rao  Desh-  3 1 7. 

II  CAS'l'l'l  SUIiDIVlSlONS  193 

f^ar  cxccllcna-.  Ovviii^  to  the  fact  that  they  produce  what 
is  [)crhaps  the  most  esteemed  luxury  in  the  diet  of  the 
higher  classes  of  native  society,  the  Barais  occupy  a  fairly 
good  social  position,  and  one  legend  gives  them  a  Ikahman 
ancestry.  This  is  to  the  effect  that  the  first  Barai  was  a 
Brfdiman  whom  God  detected  in  a  flagrant  case  of  lying 
to  his  brother.  His  sacred  thread  was  confiscated  and 
being  planted  in  the  ground  grew  up  into  the  first  betel- 
vine,  which  he  was  set  to  tend.  Another  story  of  the 
origin  of  the  vine  is  given  later  in  this  article.  In  the 
Central  Provinces  its  cultivation  has  probably  only  flourished 
to  any  appreciable  extent  for  a  period  of  about  three 
centuries,  and  the  Barai  caste  would  appear  to  be  mainly 
a  functional  one,  made  up  of  a  number  of  immigrants  from 
northern  India  and  of  recruits  from  different  classes  of  the 
population,  including  a  large  proportion  of  the  non-Aryan 

The  following  endogamous  divisions  of  the  caste  have  2.  Caste 
been  reported  :  Chaurasia,  so  called  from  the  Chaurasi  divisions 
pargana  of  the  Mirzapur  District ;  Panagaria  from  Panagar 
in  Jubbulpore  ;  Mahobia  from  Mahoba  in  Hamirpur  ;  Jaiswar 
from  the  town  of  Jais  in  the  Rai  Bareli  District  of  the  United 
Provinces  ;  Gangapari,  coming  from  the  further  side  of  the 
Ganges  ;  and  Pardeshi  or  Deshwari,  foreigners.  The  above 
divisions  all  have  territorial  names,  and  these  show  that  a 
large  proportion  of  the  caste  have  come  from  northern  India, 
the  different  batches  of  immigrants  forming  separate  endo- 
gamous groups  on  their  arrival  here.  Other  subcastes  are 
the  Dudh  Barais,  from  dildh,  milk  ;  the  Kuman,  said  to  be 
Kunbis  who  have  adopted  this  occupation  and  become  Barais ; 
the  Jharia  and  Kosaria,  the  oldest  or  jungly  Barais,  and  those 
who  live  in  Chhattlsgarh  ;  the  Purania  or  old  Barais  ;  the 
Kumhardhang,  who  are  said  to  be  the  descendants  of  a  potter 
on  whose  wheel  a  betel-vine  grew  ;  and  the  Lahuri  Sen,  who 
are  a  subcaste  formed  of  the  descendants  of  irregular  unions. 
None  of  the  other  subcastes  will  take  food  from  these  last, 
and  the  name  is  locally  derived  from  lahuri,  lower,  and  se^i 
or  shreni,  class.  The  caste  is  also  divided  into  a  large 
number  of  exogamous  groups  or  septs  which  may  be  classified 
according  to  their  names  as  territorial,  titular  and  totemistic. 

VOL.  II  O 



Examples  of  territorial  names  are :  Kanaujia  of  Kanauj, 
Burhanpuria  of  Burhanpur,  Chitoria  of  Chitor  in  Rajputana, 
Deobijha  the  name  of  a  village  in  Chhattlsgarh,  and  Kha- 
rondiha  from  Kharond  or  Kalahandi  State.  These  names 
must  apparently  have  been  adopted  at  random  when  a  family 
either  settled  in  one  of  these  places  or  removed  from  it  to 
another  part  of  the  country.  Examples  of  titular  names  of 
groups  are  :  Pandit  (priest),  Bhandari  (store-keeper),  Patharha 
(hail-averter),  Batkaphor  (pot-breaker),  Bhulya  (the  forgetful 
one),  Gujar  (a  caste),  Gahoi  (a  caste),  and  so  on.  While 
the  following  are  totemistic  groups  :  Katara  (dagger),  Kulha 
(jackal),  Bandrele  (monkey),  Chlkhalkar  (from  cJiikhal,  mud), 
Richharia  (bear),  and  others.  Where  the  group  is  named 
after  another  caste  it  probably  indicates  that  a  man  of  that 
caste  became  a  Barai  and  founded  a  family  ;  while  the  fact 
that  some  groups  are  totemistic  shows  that  a  section  of  the 
caste  is  recruited  from  the  indigenous  tribes.  The  large 
variety  of  names  discloses  the  diverse  elements  of  which  the 
caste  is  made  up. 
3.  Mar-  Marriage  within  the  gotra  or  exogamous  group  and  within 

riage.  three  degrees  of  relationship  between  persons  connected 
through  females  is  prohibited.  Girls  are  usually  wedded 
before  adolescence,  but  no  stigma  attaches  to  the  family  if 
they  remain  single  beyond  this  period.  If  a  girl  is  seduced 
by  a  man  of  the  caste  she  is  married  to  him  by  the  pat,  a 
simple  ceremony  used  for  widows.  In  the  southern  Districts 
a  barber  cuts  off  a  lock  of  her  hair  on  the  banks  of  a  tank  or 
river  by  way  of  penalty,  and  a  fast  is  also  imposed  on  her, 
while  the  caste-fellows  exact  a  meal  from  her  family.  If  she 
has  an  illegitimate  child,  it  is  given  away  to  somebody  else,  if 
possible.  A  girl  going  wrong  with  an  outsider  is  expelled 
from  the  caste. 

Polygamy  is  permitted  and  no  stigma  attaches  to  the 
taking  of  a  second  wife,  though  it  is  rarely  done  except  for 
special  family  reasons.  Among  the  Maratha  Barais  the  bride 
and  bridegroom  must  walk  five  times  round  the  marriage 
altar  and  then  worship  the  stone  slab  and  roller  used  for 
pounding  spices.  This  seems  to  show  that  the  trade  of  the 
Pansari  or  druggist  is  recognised  as  being  a  proper  avocation 
of  the  Barai.    They  subsequently  have  to  worship  the  potter's 

II  R I'll. I C,n)N  AND  SOCIAL  STATUS  195 

wheel.  yVftcr  the  wedding  the  bride,  if  she  is  a  child,  goes 
as  usual  to  her  husband's  house  for  a  few  days.  In  Chhattis- 
garh  she  is  accompanied  by  a  few  relations,  the  party  being 
known  as  Chauthia,  and  during  her  stay  in  her  husband's 
house  the  bride  is  made  to  sleep  on  the  ground.  Widow 
marriage  is  permitted,  and  the  ceremony  is  conducted  accord- 
ing to  the  usage  of  the  locality.  In  Betul  the  relatives  of  the 
widow  take  the  second  husband  before  Maroti's  shrine,  where 
he  offers  a  nut  and  some  betel-leaf.  He  is  then  taken  to  the 
mrdguzar's  house  and  presents  to  him  Rs.  1-4-0,  a  cocoanut 
and  some  betel-vine  leaf  as  the  price  of  his  assent  to  the 
marriage.  If  there  is  a  Dcshmukh  ^  of  the  village,  a  cocoanut 
and  betel-leaf  are  also  given  to  him.  The  nut  offered  to 
Maroti  represents  the  deceased  husband's  spirit,  and  is  sub- 
sequently placed  on  a  plank  and  kicked  off  by  the  new 
bridegroom  in  token  of  his  usurping  the  other's  place, 
and  finally  buried  to  lay  the  spirit.  The  property  of  the 
first  husband  descends  to  his  children,  and  failing  them  his 
brother's  children  or  collateral  heirs  take  it  before  the  widow. 
A  bachelor  espousing  a  widow  must  first  go  through  the 
ceremony  of  marriage  with  a  swallow-wort  plant.  When  a 
widower  marries  a  girl  a  silver  impression  representing  the 
deceased  first  wife  is  made  and  worshipped  daily  with  the 
family  gods.  Divorce  is  permitted  on  sufficient  grounds  at 
the  instance  of  either  party,  being  effected  before  the  caste 
committee  or  panchdyat.  If  a  husband  divorces  his  wife 
merely  on  account  of  bad  temper,  he  must  maintain  her  so 
long  as  she  remains  unmarried  and  continues  to  lead  a 
moral  life. 

The  Barais  especially  venerate   the   Nag  or  cobra  and  4^  Reii- 
observe  the  festival  of  Nag-Panchmi  (Cobra's  fifth),  in  con-  foc^af" 
nection  with  which  the  following  story  is  related.      Formerly  status. 
there  was  no  betel -vine  on  the  earth.      But  when  the  five 
Pandava  brothers  celebrated   the  great  horse  sacrifice  after 
their   victory    at    Hastinapur,    they    wanted    some,    and    so 
messengers  were  sent  down  below  the  earth  to  the  residence 
of  the  queen  of  the  serpents,  in   order  to  try  and  obtain  it. 
Basuki,  the  queen  of  the  serpents,  obligingly  cut  off  the  top 

^  The  name  of  a  superior  revenue  officer  under  the  Marathas,  now  borne 
as  a  courtesy  title  by  certain  families. 

196  BARAl  PART 

joint  of  her  little  finger  and  gave  it  to  the  messengers.  This 
was  brought  up  and  sown  on  the  earth,  and  pan  creepers  grew 
out  of  the  joint.  For  this  reason  the  betel-vine  has  no 
blossoms  or  seeds,  but  the  joints  of  the  creepers  are  cut  off 
and  sown,  when  they  sprout  afresh  ;  and  the  betel-vine  is 
called  Nagbel  or  the  serpent-creeper.  On  the  day  of  Nag- 
Panchmi  the  Barais  go  to  the  bareja  with  flowers,  cocoanuts 
and  other  offerings,  and  worship  a  stone  which  is  placed  in 
it  and  which  represents  the  Nag  or  cobra.  A  goat  or  sheep 
is  sacrificed  and  they  return  home,  no  leaf  of  the  pan  garden 
being  touched  on  that  day.  A  cup  of  milk  is  also  left,  in 
the  belief  that  a  cobra  will  come  out  of  the  pan  garden  and 
drink  it.  The  Barais  say  that  members  of  their  caste  are 
never  bitten  by  cobras,  though  many  of  these  snakes  frequent 
the  gardens  on  account  of  the  moist  coolness  and  shade 
which  they  afford.  The  Agarwala  Banias,  from  whom  the 
Barais  will  take  food  cooked  without  water,  have  also  a  legend 
of  descent  from  a  Naga  or  snake  princess.  '  Our  mother's 
house  is  of  the  race  of  the  snake,'  say  the  Agarwals  of 
Bihar.^  The  caste  usually  burn  the  dead,  with  the  ex- 
ception of  children  and  persons  dying  of  leprosy  or  snake- 
bite, whose  bodies  are  buried.  Mourning  is  observed  for 
ten  days  in  the  case  of  adults  and  for  three  days  for 
children.  In  Chhattlsgarh  if  any  portion  of  the  corpse 
remains  unburnt  on  the  day  following  the  cremation,  the 
relatives  are  penalised  to  the  extent  of  an  extra  feast 
to  the  caste-fellows.  Children  are  named  on  the  sixth 
or  twelfth  day  after  birth  either  by  a  Brahman  or  by 
the  women  of  the  household.  Two  names  are  given,  one 
for  ceremonial  and  the  other  for  ordinary  use.  When  a 
Brahman  is  engaged  he  gives  seven  names  for  a  boy  and 
five  for  a  girl,  and  the  parents  select  one  out  of  these. 
The  Barais  do  not  admit  outsiders  into  the  caste,  and 
employ  Brahmans  for  religious  and  ceremonial  purposes. 
They  are  allowed  to  eat  the  flesh  of  clean  animals,  but 
very  rarely  do  so,  and  they  abstain  from  liquor.  Brahmans 
will  take  sweets  and  water  from  them,  and  they  occupy  a 
fairly  good  social  position  on  account  of  the  important 
nature  of  their  occupation. 

^   Tribes  and  Castes  of  Bengal,  art.  Agarwal. 

11  O  ecu  PA  TION  197 

"  It  has  been  mentioned,"  says  Sir  1 1.  Rislcy,'  "  that  the  s-  Occupa- 
garden  is  regarded  as  ahnost  sacred,  and  the  superstitious 
practices  in  vogue  resemble  those  of  the  silk-worm  breeder. 
The  Bfirui  will  not  enter  it  until  he  has  bathed  and  washed 
his  clothes.  Animals  found  inside  are  driven  out,  while 
women  ceremonially  unclean  dare  not  enter  within  the  gate. 
A  Bnlhman  never  sets  foot  inside,  and  old  men  have  a  pre- 
judice against  entering  it.  It  has,  however,  been  known  to 
be  used  for  assignations."  The  betel-vine  is  the  leaf  of  Piper 
betel  L.,  the  word  being  derived  from  the  Malay alam  vcttila, 
'  a  plain  leaf,'  and  coming  to  us  through  the  Portuguese  detre 
and  bet/e.  The  leaf  is  called  pan,  and  is  eaten  with  the  nut 
of  Areca  catechu,  called  in  Hindi  supari.  The  vine  needs 
careful  cultivation,  the  gardens  having  to  be  covered  to  keep 
off  the  heat  of  the  sun,  while  liberal  treatment  with  manure 
and  irrigation  is  needed.  The  joints  of  the  creepers  are 
planted  in  February,  and  begin  to  supply  leaves  in  about  five 
months'  time.  When  the  first  creepers  are  stripped  after  a 
period  of  nearly  a  year,  they  are  cut  off  and  fresh  ones 
appear,  the  plants  being  exhausted  within  a  period  of  about 
two  years  after  the  first  sowing.  A  garden  may  cover  from 
half  an  acre  to  an  acre  of  land,  and  belongs  to  a  number  of 
growers,  who  act  in  partnership,  each  owning  so  many  lines 
of  vines.  The  plain  leaves  are  sold  at  from  2  annas  to 
4  annas  a  hundred,  or  a  higher  rate  when  they  are  out  of 
season.  Damoh,  Ramtek  and  Bilahri  are  three  of  the  best- 
known  centres  of  cultivation  in  the  Central  Provinces.  The 
Bilahri  leaf  is  described  in  the  Ain-i-Akbari  as  follows  : 
"  The  leaf  called  Bilahri  is  white  and  shining,  and  does  not 
make  the  tongue  harsh  and  hard.  It  tastes  best  of  all  kinds. 
After  it  has  been  taken  away  from  the  creeper,  it  turns 
white  with  some  care  after  a  month,  or  even  after  twenty 
days,  when  greater  efforts  are  made."  ^  For  retail  sale  btdas 
are  prepared,  consisting  of  a  rolled  betel-leaf  containing 
areca-nut,  catechu  and  lime,  and  fastened  with  a  clove. 
Musk  and  cardamoms  are  sometimes  added.  Tobacco 
should  be  smoked  after  eating  a  bida  according  to  the  saying, 

'    Tribes  and  Castes  of  Bengal,  art.        72,    quoted    in    Crooke's    Tribes    and 
Barui.  Castes,  art.  Tamboli. 

^   Bloclimann,    Ain-i-Ahbari,    i.    p. 

198  BARAI  PART  11 

'  Service  without  a  patron,  a  young  man  without  a  shield, 
and  betel  without  tobacco  are  alike  savourless.'  Bidas  are 
sold  at  from  two  to  four  for  a  pice  (farthing).  Women  of  the 
caste  often  retail  them,  and  as  many  are  good-looking  they 
secure  more  custom  ;  they  are  also  said  to  have  an  indiffer- 
ent reputation.  Early  in  the  morning,  when  they  open  their 
shops,  they  burn  some  incense  before  the  bamboo  basket  in 
which  the  leaves  are  kept,  to  propitiate  Lakshmi,  the  goddess 
of  wealth. 



1.  Sircngih  iifid /oca! distribution.         4.    lieligion. 

2.  Internal  structure.  5.   Social  position. 

3.  Marriage  customs.  6.    Occupation. 

Barhai,  Sutar,  Kharadi,  Mistri.— The  occupational  i.  strength 
caste  of  carpenters.  The  Barhais  numbered  nearly  1 1 0,000  |^|!.'jribu^ 
persons  in  the  Central  Provinces  and  Berar  in  191  i,  or  tion. 
about  I  in  150  persons.  The  caste  is  most  numerous  in 
Districts  with  large  towns,  and  few  carpenters  are  to  be 
found  in  villages  except  in  the  richer  and  more  advanced 
Districts.  Hitherto  such  woodwork  as  the  villagers  wanted 
for  agriculture  has  been  made  by  the  Lobar  or  blacksmith, 
while  the  country  cots,  the  only  wooden  article  of  furniture 
in  their  houses,  could  be  fashioned  by  their  own  hands  or 
by  the  Gond  woodcutter.  In  the  Mandla  District  the 
Barhai  caste  counts  only  300  persons,  and  about  the  same 
in  Balaghat,  in  Drug  only  47  persons,  and  in  the  fourteen 
Chhattisgarh  Feudatory  States,  with  a  population  of  more 
than  two  millions,  only  some  800  persons.  The  name 
Barhai  is  said  to  be  from  the  Sanskrit  Vardhika  and  the 
root  vardh,  to  cut.  Sutar  is  a  common  name  of  the  caste 
in  the  Maratha  Districts,  and  is  from  Sutra-kara,  one  who 
works  by  string,  or  a  maker  of  string.  The  allusion  may 
be  to  the  Barhai's  use  of  string  in  planing  or  measuring 
timber,  or  it  may  possibly  indicate  a  transfer  of  occupation, 
the  Sutars  having  first  been  mainly  string-makers  and  after- 
wards abandoned  this  calling  for  that  of  the  carpenter.  The 
first  wooden  implements  and  articles  of  furniture  may  have 
been  held  together  by  string  before  nails  came  into  use. 
Kharadi  is  literally  a   turner,  one  who   turns  woodwork   on 



3.  Mar- 

a  lathe,  from   khaidt,  a  lathe.      Mistri,  a  corruption   of  the 
English  Mister,  is  an  honorific  title  for  master  carpenters. 

The  comparatively  recent  growth  of  the  caste  in  these 
Provinces  is  shown  by  its  subdivisions.  The  principal  sub- 
castes  of  the  Hindustani  Districts  are  the  Pardeshi  or 
foreigners,  immigrants  from  northern  India,  and  the  Purbia 
or  eastern,  coming  from  Oudh  ;  other  subcastes  are  the  Sri 
Gaur  Malas  or  immigrants  from  Malvva,  the  Beradi  from 
Berar,  and  the  Mahure  from  Hyderabad.  We  find  also 
subcastes  of  Jat  and  Teli  Barhais,  consisting  of  Jats  and 
Telis  (oil-pressers)  who  have  taken  to  carpentering.  Two 
other  caste-groups,  the  Chamar  Barhais  and  Gondi  Barhais, 
are  returned,  but  these  are  not  at  present  included  in 
the  Barhai  caste,  and  consist  merely  of  Chamars  and 
Gonds  who  work  as  carpenters  but  remain  in  their  own 
castes.  In  the  course  of  some  generations,  however,  if  the 
cohesive  social  force  of  the  caste  system  continues  un- 
abated, these  groups  may  probably  find  admission  into  the 
Barhai  caste.  Colonel  Tod  notes  that  the  progeny  of  one 
Makiar,  a  prince  of  the  Jadon  Rajpiat  house  of  Jaisalmer, 
became  carpenters,  and  were  known  centuries  after  as  Makur 
Sutars.  They  were  apparently  considered  illegitimate,  as 
he  states  :  "  Illegitimate  children  can  never  overcome  this 
natural  defect  among  the  Rajputs.  Thus  we  find  among  all 
classes  of  artisans  in  India  some  of  royal  but  spurious 
descent."  ^  The  internal  structure  of  the  caste  seems  therefore 
to  indicate  that  it  is  largely  of  foreign  origin  and  to  a  certain 
degree  of  recent  formation  in  these  Provinces. 

The  caste  are  also  divided  into  exogamous  septs  named 
after  villages.  In  some  localities  it  is  said  that  they  have  no 
septs,  but  only  surnames,  and  that  people  of  the  same  surname 
cannot  intermarry.  Well-to-do  persons  marry  their  daughters 
before  puberty  and  others  when  they  can  afford  the  expense 
of  the  ceremony.  Brahman  priests  are  employed  at  weddings, 
though  on  other  occasions  their  services  are  occasionally  dis- 
pensed with.  The  wedding  ceremony  is  of  the  type  pre- 
valent in  the  locality.  When  the  wedding  procession  reaches 
the  bride's  village  it  halts  near  the  temple  of  Maroti  or 
Hanuman.     Among  the  Panchfd  Barhais  the  bridegroom  does 

'    Kdjaslhdn,  ii.  p.  210. 


not  wear  a  marriage  crown  but  tics  a  bunch  of  flowers  to  his 
turban.  The  bridegroom's  party  is  entertained  for  five  days. 
Divorce  and  the  remarriage  of  widows  are  permitted.  In 
most  localities  it  is  said  that  a  widow  is  forbidden  to  marry 
her  first  husband's  younger  as  well  as  his  elder  brother. 
Among  the  Pardeshi  Barhais  of  Betul  if  a  bachelor  desires  to 
marry  a  widow  he  must  first  go  through  the  ceremony  with 
a  branch  or  twig  of  the  gfi/ar  tree.^ 

The  caste  worship  Viswakarma,  the   celestial   architect,  .4.  kdi- 
and  venerate  their  trade  implements  on  the  Dasahra  festival.  ^'""" 
They  consider  the  sight  of  a  mongoose  and  of  a  light-grey 
pigeon  or  dove  as  lucky  omens.      They  burn  the  dead  and 
throw  the  ashes  into  a   river  or  tank,  employing  a  Maha- 
Brahman  to  receive  the  gifts  for  the  dead. 

In  social  status  the  Barhais  rank  with  the  higher  artisan  5.  Social 
castes.  Brahmans  take  water  from  them  in  some  localities.  Position. 
perhaps  more  especially  in  towns.  In  Betul  for  instance 
Hindustani  Brahmans  do  not  accept  water  from  the  rural 
Barhais.  In  Damoh  where  both  the  Barhai  and  Lobar  are 
village  menials,  their  status  is  said  to  be  the  same,  and 
Brahmans  do  not  take  water  from  Lobars.  Mr.  Nesfield 
says  that  the  Barhai  is  a  village  servant  and  ranks  with  the 
Kurmi,  with  whom  his  interests  are  so  closely  allied.  But 
there  seems  no  special  reason  why  the  interests  of  the 
carpenter  should  be  more  closely  allied  with  the  cultivator 
than  those  of  any  other  village  menial,  and  it  may  be  offered 
as  a  surmise  that  carpentering  as  a  distinct  trade  is  of 
comparatively  late  origin,  and  was  adopted  by  Kurmis,  to 
which  fact  the  connection  noticed  by  Mr.  Nesfield  might 
be  attributed  ;  hence  the  position  of  the  Barhai  among  the 
castes  from  whom  a  Brahman  will  take  water.  In  some 
localities  well-to-do  members  of  the  caste  have  begun  to 
wear  the  sacred  thread. 

In  the  northern  Districts  and  the  cotton  tract  the  Barhai  6.  Occupa- 
works  as  a  village  menial.      He  makes  and  mends  the  plough  ^'°"' 
and  harrow  {bakJiar)  and  other  wooden  implements  of  agri- 
culture, and  makes  new  ones  when  supplied  with  the  wood. 
In  Wardha  he  receives  an  annual  contribution  of  100  lbs.  of 
grain  from  each  cultivator.     In  Betul  he  gets  Gj  lbs.  of  grain 

'    FicHS  glonierata. 

202  BARI  PART 

and  other  perquisites  for  each  plough  of  four  bullocks.  For 
making  carts  and  building  or  repairing  houses  he  must  be 
separately  paid.  At  weddings  the  Barhai  often  supplies  the 
sacred  marriage-post  and  is  given  from  four  annas  to  a  rupee. 
At  the  Diwali  festival  he  prepares  a  wooden  peg  about  six 
inches  long,  and  drives  it  into  the  cultivator's  house  inside  the 
threshold,  and  receives  half  a  pound  to  a  pound  of  grain. 

In  cities  the  carpenters  are  rapidly  acquiring  an  in- 
creased degree  of  skill  as  the  demand  for  a  better  class  of 
houses  and  furniture  becomes  continually  greater  and  more 
extensive.  The  carpenters  have  been  taught  to  make  English 
furniture  by  such  institutions  as  the  Friends'  Mission  of 
Hoshangabad  and  other  missionaries  ;  and  a  Government 
technical  school  has  now  been  opened  at  Nagpur,  in  which 
boys  from  all  over  the  Province  are  trained  in  the  profession. 
Very  little  wood-carving  with  any  pretensions  to  excellence 
has  hitherto  been  done  in  the  Central  Provinces,  but  the 
Jain  temples  at  Saugor  and  Khurai  contain  some  fair  wood- 
work. A  good  carpenter  in  towns  can  earn  from  i  2  annas 
to  Rs.  1-8  a  day,  and  both  his  earnings  and  prospects  have 
greatly  improved  within  recent  years.  Sherring  remarks  of 
the  Barhais  :  "  As  artisans  they  exhibit  little  or  no  inventive 
powers  :  but  in  imitating  the  workmanship  of  others  they  are 
perhaps  unsurpassed  in  the  whole  world.  They  are  equally 
clever  in  working  from  designs  and  models."  ^ 

Bapi. — A  caste  of  household  servants  and  makers  of 
leaf-plates,  belonging  to  northern  India.  The  Baris  num- 
bered 1200  persons  in  the  Central  Provinces  in  191  i, 
residing  mainly  in  Jubbulpore  and  Mandla.  Sir  H.  Risley 
remarks  of  the  caste  :  ^  "  Mr.  Nesfield  regards  the  Bari  as 
merely  an  offshoot  from  a  semi -savage  tribe  known  as 
Banmanush  and  Musahar.  He  is  said  still  to  associate  with 
them  at  times,  and  if  the  demand  for  leaf-plates  and  cups, 
owing  to  some  temporary  cause,  such  as  a  local  fair  or  an 
unusual  multitude  of  marriages,  happens  to  become  larger 
than  he  can  at  once  supply,  he  gets  them  secretly  made  by 
his  ruder  kinsfolk  and  retails  them  at  a  higher  rate,  passing 

•   ni)tdit  Castes,  i.  p.  316. 
'^   Tribes  and  Castes  of  Bengal,  art.  Bari. 

11  nARf  203 

them  off  as  his  own  production.  The  strictest  IJrahmans, 
those  at  least  who  aspire  to  imitate  the  self-denying  life  of 
the  ancient  Indian  hermit,  never  eat  off  any  other  plates 
than  those  made  of  leaves."  "  If  the  above  view  is  correct," 
Sir  II.  Risley  remarks,  "  the  Baris  are  a  branch  of  a  non-Aryan 
tribe  who  have  been  given  a  fairly  respectable  position  in  the 
social  system  in  consequence  of  the  demand  for  leaf-plates, 
which  are  largely  used  by  the  highest  as  well  as  the  lowest 
castes.  Instances  of  this  sort,  in  which  a  non-Aryan  or 
mixed  group  is  promoted  on  grounds  of  necessity  or  con- 
venience to  a  higher  status  than  their  antecedents  would 
entitle  them  to  claim,  are  not  unknown  in  other  castes,  and 
must  have  occurred  frequently  in  outlying  parts  of  the 
country,  where  the  Aryan  settlements  were  scanty  and 
imperfectly  supplied  with  the  social  apparatus  demanded  by 
the  theory  of  ceremonial  purity."  There  is  no  reason  why 
the  origin  of  the  Bari  from  the  Banmanush  (wild  man  of  the 
woods)  or  Musahar  (mouse-eater),  a  forest  tribe,  as  suggested 
by  Mr.  Nesfield  from  his  observation  of  their  mutual  connec- 
tion, should  be  questioned.  The  making  of  leaf-plates  is  an 
avocation  which  may  be  considered  naturally  to  pertain  to 
the  tribes  frequenting  jungles  from  which  the  leaves  are 
gathered  ;  and  in  the  Central  Provinces,  though  in  the  north 
the  Nai  or  barber  ostensibly  supplies  the  leaf-plates,  probably 
buying  the  leaves  and  getting  them  made  up  by  Gonds  and 
others,  in  the  Maratha  Districts  the  Gond  himself  does  so, 
and  many  Gonds  make  their  living  by  this  trade.  The 
people  of  the  Maratha  country  are  apparently  less  strict 
than  those  of  northern  India,  and  do  not  object  to  eat  off 
plates  avowedly  the  handiwork  of  Gonds.  The  fact  that 
the  Bari  has  been  raised  to  the  position  of  a  pure  caste,  so 
that  Brahmans  will  take  water  from  his  hands,  is  one  among 
several  instances  of  this  elevation  of  the  rank  of  the  serving 
castes  for  purposes  of  convenience.  The  caste  themselves 
have  the  following  legend  of  their  origin  :  Once  upon  a  time 
Parmeshwar  ^  was  offering  rice  milk  to  the  spirits  of  his 
ancestors.  In  the  course  of  this  ceremony  the  performer  has 
to  present  a  gift  known  as  Vikraya  Dan,  which  cannot  be 
accepted   by  others   without   loss   of  position.      Parmeshwar 

*   Vishnu. 

204  BA  SDE  WA  part 

offered  the  gift  to  various  Brahmans,  but  they  all  refused   it. 
So  he  made  a  man  of  clay,  and   blew  upon   the  image  and 
gave  it  life,  and  the  god  then  asked  the  man  whom   he  had 
created  to  accept  the  gift  which  the  Brahmans  had   refused. 
This  man,  who  was  the  first  Bari,  agreed  on  condition  that 
all   men  should   drink  with  him  and  recognise  his  purity  of 
caste.      Parmeshwar  then  told   him  to  bring  water  in  a  cup, 
and  drank  of  it  in  the  presence  of  all  the  castes.      And  in 
consequence  of  this  all  the  Hindus  will  take  water  from  the 
hands  of  a  Bari.      They  also  say  that  their  first  ancestor  was 
named  Sundar  on  account  of  his  personal  beauty  ;   but  if  so, 
he  failed   to  bequeath  this  quality  to  his  descendants.      The 
proper   avocation    of    the    Baris    is,    as    already   stated,   the 
manufacture  of  the  leaf-cups  and  plates  used  by  all    Hindus 
at  festivals.      In  the  Central  Provinces  these  are  made  from 
the  large  leaves  of  the  mdJiul  creeper  {Bauhinia   Vahlii),  or 
from    the  palds   {Butea  frondosa).      The   caste   also   act    as 
personal  servants,  handing  round  water,  lighting  and  carry- 
ing torches  at   marriages  and  other  entertainments  and  on 
journeys,  and    performing  other  functions.      Some  of  them 
have  taken   to  agriculture.      Their  women  act  as   maids  to 
high-caste   Hindu   ladies,  and   as   they  are  always  about  the 
zenana,  are  liable  to  lose  their  virtue.      A  curious    custom 
prevails    in   Marwar  on   the  birth  of  an  heir  to  the  throne. 
An    impression  of  the  child's  foot  is  taken  by  a  Bari  on 
cloth  covered   with   saffron,  and   is   exhibited  to  the  native 
chiefs,  who  make  him  rich  presents.^      The  Baris  have  the 
reputation    of    great    fidelity    to    their    employers,    and    a 
saying  about  them   is,  '  The   Bari   will   die  fighting  for  his 

Basdewa,-  Wasudeo,  Harbola,  Kaparia,  Jag-a,  Kapdi. — 

A  wandering  beggar  caste  of  mixed  origin,  who  also 
call  themselves  Sanadhya  or  Sanaurhia  Brahmans.  The 
Basdewas  trace  their  origin  to  Wasudeo,  the  father  of 
Krishna,  and  the  term  Basdewa  is  a  corruption  of  Wasudeo 
or    Wasudeva.      Kaparia    is    the    name    they    bear    in    the 

'   Sherring,    Tribes    and    Castes,    i.       papers   by   Mr.   W.    N.    Maw,  Deputy 
pj).  403,  404.  Commissioner,  Damoh,  and  Murlidhar, 

^  This     article     is     compiled      from        MunsiCr  of  Kliurai  in  Saugor. 


Antcrvcd  or  country  between  the  Ganges  and  Jumna,  whence 
they  claim  to  have  come.  Kaparia  has  been  derived  from 
kapra,  cloth,  owing  to  the  custom  of  the  Basdewas  of  having 
several  dresses,  which  they  change  rapidly  like  the  Bahrupia, 
making  themselves  up  in  different  characters  as  a  show. 
Harbola  is  an  occupational  term,  applied  to  a  class  of 
Basdewas  who  climb  trees  in  the  early  morning  and  thence 
vociferate  praises  of  the  deity  in  a  loud  voice.  The  name 
is  derived  from  Haj\  God,  and  bolna^  to  speak.  As  the 
1  larbolas  wake  people  up  in  the  morning  they  are  also  called 
Jaga  or  Awakener.  The  number  of  ]?asdewas  in  the  Central 
Provinces  and  Berar  in  191  i  was  2500,  and  they  are  found 
principally  in  the  northern  Districts  and  in  Chhattlsgarh. 
They  have  several  territorial  subcastes,  as  Gangaputri  or 
those  who  dwell  on  the  banks  of  the  Ganges  ;  Khaltia  or 
Deswari,  those  who  belong  to  the  Central  Provinces  ;  Parauha, 
from  para,  a  male  buffalo  calf,  being  the  dealers  in  buffaloes  ; 
Harbola  or  those  who  climb  trees  and  sing  the  praises  of 
God  ;  and  Wasudeo,  the  dwellers  in  the  Maratha  Districts 
who  marry  only  among  themselves.  The  names  of  the 
exogamous  divisions  are  very  varied,  some  being  taken  from 
Brahman  gotras  and  Rajput  septs,  while  others  are  the 
names  of  villages,  or  nicknames,  or  derived  from  animals 
and  plants.  It  may  be  concluded  from  these  names  that  the 
Basdewas  are  a  mixed  occupational  group  recruited  from 
high  and  low  castes,  though  they  themselves  say  that  they 
do  not  admit  any  outsiders  except  Brahmans  into  the 
community.  In  Bombay  ^  the  Wasudevas  have  a  special 
connection  with  Kumhars  or  potters,  whom  they  address  by 
the  term  of  kdka  or  paternal  uncle,  and  at  whose  houses 
they  lodge  on  their  travels,  presenting  their  host  with  the 
two  halves  of  a  cocoanut.  The  caste  do  not  observe  celibacy. 
A  price  of  Rs.  25  has  usually  tO;  be  given  for  a  bride,  and  a 
Brahman  is  employed  to  perform  the  ceremony.  At  the 
conclusion  of  this  the  Brahman  invests  the  bridegroom  with 
a  sacred  thread,  which  he  thereafter  continues  to  wear. 
Widow  marriage  is  permitted,  and  widows  are  commonly 
married  to  widowers.  Divorce  is  also  permitted.  When  a 
man's  wife  dies  he  shaves  his  moustache  and  beard,  if  any, 

^   Bombay  Gazetteer,  xvii.  p.   io8. 

2o6  BASDEIVA  part 

in  mourning  and  a  fatlier  likewise  for  a  daughter-in-law  ; 
this  is  somewhat  peculiar,  as  other  Hindus  do  not  shave 
the  moustache  for  a  wife  or  daughter-in-law.  The  Basdewas 
are  wandering  mendicants.  In  the  Maratha  Districts  they 
wear  a  plume  of  peacock's  feathers,  which  they  say  was 
given  to  them  as  a  badge  by  Krishna.  In  Saugor  and 
Damoh  instead  of  this  they  carry  during  the  period  from 
Dasahra  to  the  end  of  Magh  or  from  September  to  January 
a  brass  vessel  called  inatuk  bound  on  their  heads.  It  is 
surmounted  by  a  brass  cone  and  adorned  with  mango-leaves, 
cowries  and  a  piece  of  red  cloth,  and  with  figures  of  Rama 
and  Lakshman.  Their  stock-in-trade  for  begging  consists  of 
two  kartdls  or  wooden  clappers  which  are  struck  against 
each  other ;  gimngrus  or  jingling  ornaments  for  the  feet, 
worn  when  dancing  ;  and  a  paijna  or  kind  of  rattle,  consist- 
ing of  two  semicircular  iron  wires  bound  at  each  end  to  a 
piece  of  wood  with  rings  slung  on  to  them  ;  this  is  simply 
shaken  in  the  hand  and  gives  out  a  sound  from  the  movement 
of  the  rings  against  the  wires.  They  worship  all  these 
implements  as  well  as  their  beggar's  wallet  on  the  Janam- 
Ashtami  or  Krishna's  birthday,  the  Dasahra,  and  the  full  moon 
of  Magh  (January).  They  rise  early  and  beg  only  in  the 
morning  from  about  four  till  eight,  and  sing  songs  in  praise 
of  Sarwan  and  Karan.  Sarwan  was  a  son  renowned  for  his 
filial  piety  ;  he  maintained  and  did  service  to  his  old  blind 
parents  to  the  end  of  their  lives,  much  against  the  will  of  his 
wife,  and  was  proof  against  all  her  machinations  to  induce 
him  to  abandon  them.  Karan  was  a  proverbially  chari- 
table king,  and  all  his  family  had  the  same  virtue.  His 
wife  gave  away  daily  rice  and  pulse  to  those  who  required 
it,  his  daughter  gave  them  clothes,  his  son  distributed  cows 
as  alms  and  his  daughter-in-law  cocoanuts.  The  king  him- 
self gave  only  gold,  and  it  is  related  of  him  that  he  was 
accustomed  to  expend  a  maund  and  a  quarter '^  weight  of 
gold  in  alms-giving  before  he  washed  himself  and  paid  his 
morning  devotions.  Therefore  the  Basdewas  sing  that  he 
who  gives  early  in  the  morning  acquires  the  merit  of  Karan  ; 
and  their  presence  at  this  time  affords  the  requisite  oppor- 
tunity to  anybody  who  may  be  desirous  of  emulating  the 

1   About  lOO  lbs. 

M  HAS /)E  IV A  207 

kinc^.      At  the  end  of  every  cou[)let  they  cry  '  Jai  Gan^a '  or 
'  liar  Ganga,'  invoking^  the  Ganges. 

The  Harbolas  have  each  a  beat  of  a  certain  number  of 
villages  which  must  not  be  infringed  by  the  others.  Their 
method  is  to  ascertain  the  name  of  some  well-to-do  jjcrson 
in  the  village.  This  done,  they  climb  a  tree  in  the  early 
morning  before  sunrise,  and  continue  chanting  his  praises  in 
a  loud  voice  until  he  is  sufficiently  flattered  by  their  eulogies 
or  wearied  by  their  importunity  to  throw  down  a  present  of 
a  few  pice  under  the  tree,  which  the  Harbola,  descending, 
appropriates.  The  Basdewas  of  the  northern  Districts  are 
now  commonly  engaged  in  the  trade  of  buying  and  selling 
buffaloes.  They  take  the  young  male  calves  from  Saugor 
and  Damoh  to  Chhattisgarh,  and  there  retail  them  at  a  profit 
for  rice  cultivation,  driving  them  in  large  herds  along  the 
road.  For  the  capital  which  they  have  to  borrow  to  make 
their  purchases,  they  are  charged  very  high  rates  of  interest. 
The  Basdewas  have  here  a  special  veneration  for  the  buffalo 
as  the  animal  from  which  they  make  their  livelihood,  and 
they  object  strongly  to  the  calves  being  taken  to  be  tied  out 
as  baits  for  tiger,  refusing,  it  is  said,  to  accept  payment  if  the 
calf  should  be  killed.  Their  social  status  is  not  high,  and 
none  but  the  lowest  castes  will  take  food  from  their  hands. 
They  eat  flesh  and  drink  liquor,  but  abstain  from  pork,  fowls 
and  beef.      Some  of  the  caste  have  given  up  animal  food. 



1 .  Numbers  and  distrlbuiion.  4.   Marriage. 

2.  Caste  traditions.  5.   Religion  and  social  status. 

3.  Subdivisions.  6.    Occupation. 

Basop,^  Bansphop,  Dhulia,  Bupud. — The  occupational 
caste  of  bamboo-workers,  the  two  first  names  being  Hindi 
and  the  last  the  term  used  in  the  Maratha  Districts.  The 
cognate  Uriya  caste  is  called  Kandra  and  the  Telugu  one 
Medara.  The  Basors  numbered  53,000  persons  in  the 
Central  Provinces  and  Berar  in  191  i.  About  half  the  total 
number  reside  in  the  Saugor,  Damoh  and  Jubbulpore 
Districts.  The  word  Basor  is  a  corruption  of  Bansphor,  '  a 
breaker  of  bamboos.'  Dhulia,  from  dholi,  a  drum,  means  a 

The  caste  trace  their  origin  from  Raja  Benu  or  Venu 
who  ruled  at  Singorgarh  in  Damoh.  It  is  related  of  him 
that  he  was  so  pious  that  he  raised  no  taxes  from  his 
subjects,  but  earned  his  livelihood  by  making  and  selling 
bamboo  fans.  He  could  of  course  keep  no  army,  but  he 
knew  magic,  and  when  he  broke  his  fan  the  army  of  the 
enemy  broke  up  in  unison.  Venu  is  a  Sanskrit  word 
meaning  bamboo.  But  a  mythological  Sanskrit  king  called 
Vena  is  mentioned  in  the  Puranas,  from  whom  for  his  sins 
was  born  the  first  Nishada,  the  lowest  of  human  beings,  and 
Manu  ^   states    that   the    bamboo -worker  is   the    issue   of  a 

'  Compiled  from  papers  by  Mr.  Ram  Betul ;  Mr.  Keshava  Rao,  Headmaster, 

Lai,  B.A.,  De])Uty  Inspector  of  Schools,  Middle  School,  Seoni  ;  and  Bapu  Gulab 

Saugor;  Mr.  Vishnu  Gangadhar  Gadgil,  Singh,  Superintendent,  Land  Records, 

Tahslldar,    Narsinghpur  ;     Mr.     Devi  Betul. 

Dayal,  Tahsildar,  liatta  ;  Mr.  Kanhya  ^  Chapter  x.  37,  and  Shudra  Kani- 

Lal,  B.  A.,  Deputy  Inspector  of  Schools,  lakar,  p.  284. 


Nishada  or  Chandal  father  and  a  Vaidcha  '  mother.  So 
that  the  local  story  may  be  a  corruption  of  the  Brahmanical 
tradition.  Another  legend  relates  that  in  the  beginning  there 
were  no  bamboos,  and  the  first  Basor  took  the  serpent  which 
Siva  wore  round  his  neck  and  going  to  a  hill  planted  it  with 
its  head  in  the  ground,  A  bamboo  at  once  sprang  up  on 
the  spot,  and  from  this  the  liasor  made  the  first  winnowing 
fan.  And  the  snake-like  root  of  the  bamboo,  which  no  doubt 
suggested  the  story  to  its  composer,  is  now  adduced  in  proof 
of  it. 

The  Basors  of  the  northern  Districts  are  divided  into  a  3-  •'^"•j- 
number  of  subcastes,  the  principal  of  which  are  :  the  Purania  '^''^'°"  • 
or  Juthia,  who  perhaps  represent  the  oldest  section,  Purania 
being  from  purdna  old  ;  they  are  called  Juthia  because  they 
eat  the  leavings  of  others  ;  the  Barmaiya  or  Malaiya, 
apparently  a  territorial  group  ;  the  Deshwari  or  Bundel- 
khandi  who  reside  in  the  desJi  or  native  place  of  Bundel- 
khand  ;  the  Gudha  or  Gurha,  the  name  being  derived  by 
some  from  giida  a  pigsty  ;  the  Dumar  or  Dom  Basors  ;  the 
Dhubela,  perhaps  from  the  Dhobi  caste  ;  and  the  Dharkar. 
Two  or  three  of  the  above  names  appear  to  be  those  of 
other  low  castes  from  which  the  Basor  caste  may  have  been 
recruited,  perhaps  at  times  when  a  strong  demand  existed 
for  bamboo-workers.  The  Buruds  do  not  appear  to  be 
sufficiently  numerous  to  have  subcastes.  But  they  include 
a  few  Telenga  Buruds  who  are  really  Medaras,  and  the  caste 
proper  are  therefore  sometimes  known  as  Maratha  Buruds  to 
distinguish  them  from  these.  The  caste  has  numerous  bainks 
or  exogamous  groups  or  septs,  the  names  of  which  may  chiefly 
be  classified  as  territorial  and  totemistic.  Among  the  former 
are  Mahobia,  from  the  town  of  Mahoba  ;  Sirmaiya,  from 
Sirmau  ;  Orahia,  from  Orai,  the  battlefield  of  the  Banaphar 
generals,  Alha  and  Udal  ;  Tikarahia  from  Tikari,  and  so  on. 
The  totemistic  septs  include  the  Sanpero  from  sdnp  a  snake, 
the  Mangrelo  from  mangra  a  crocodile,  the  Morya  from  inor 
a  peacock,  the  Titya  from  the  titehri  bird  and  the  Sarkia 
from  sarki  or  red  ochre,  all  of  which  worship  their  respective 
totems.  The  Katarya  or  '  dagger '  sept  worship  a  real  or 
painted  dagger  at  their  marriage,  and  the  Kemia,  a  branch 

*  A  Vaideha  was  the  child  of  a  Vaishya  father  and  a  Brahman  mother. 
VOL.  II  P 


of  the  kem  tree  {Stephegyne  parvifolid).  The  Bandrelo,  from 
bandar^  worship  a  painted  monkey.  One  or  two  groups 
are  named  after  castes,  as  Bamhnelo  from  Brahman  and 
Bargujaria  from  Bargujar  Rajput,  thus  indicating  that 
members  of  these  castes  became  Basors  and  founded  families. 
One  sept  is  called  Marha  from  Marhai,  the  goddess  of  cholera, 
and  the  members  worship  a  picture  of  the  goddess  drawn  in 
black.  The  name  of  the  Kulhantia  sept  means  somersault, 
and  these  turn  a  somersault  before  worshipping  their  gods. 
So  strong  is  the  totemistic  idea  that  some  of  the  territorial 
groups  worship  objects  with  similar  names.  Thus  the 
Mahobia  group,  whose  name  is  undoubtedly  derived  from 
the  town  of  Mahoba,  have  adopted  the  mahua  tree  as  their 
totem,  and  digging  a  small  hole  in  the  ground  place  in  it  a 
little  water  and  the  liquor  made  from  mahua  flowers,  and 
worship  it.  This  represents  the  process  of  distillation  of 
country  liquor.  Similarly,  the  Orahia  group,  who  derive 
their  name  from  the  town  of  Orai,  now  worship  the  urai  or 
khaskhas  grass,  and  the  Tikarahia  from  Tikari  worship  a 
tikli  or  glass  spangle. 
4.  Mar-  The  marriage  of  persons  belonging  to  the  same  haink  or 

nage.  s^^X.  and  also  that  of  first  cousins  is  forbidden.  The  age  of 
marriage  is  settled  by  convenience,  and  no  stigma  attaches 
to  its  postponement  beyond  adolescence.  Intrigues  of  un- 
married girls  with  men  of  their  own  or  any  higher  caste  are 
usually  overlooked.  The  ceremony  follows  the  standard 
Hindi  and  Marathi  forms,  and  presents  no  special  features. 
A  bride-price  called  chdri,  amounting  to  seven  or  eight 
rupees,  is  usually  paid.  In  Betul  the  practice  of  lanijhana, 
or  serving  the  father-in-law  for  a  term  of  years  before 
marrying  his  daughter,  is  sometimes  followed.  Widow- 
marriage  is  permitted,  and  the  widow  is  expected  to  wed  her 
late  husband's  younger  brother.  The  Basors  are  musicians 
by  profession,  but  in  Betul  the  narsingha,  a  peculiar  kind  of 
crooked  trumpet,  is  the  only  implement  which  may  be  played 
at  the  marriage  of  a  widow.  A  woman  marrying  a  second 
time  forfeits  all  interest  in  the  property  of  her  late  husband, 
unless  she  is  without  issue  and  there  are  no  near  relatives  of 
her  husband  to  take  it.  Divorce  is  effected  by  the  breaking 
of  the  woman's  bangles  in  public.      If  obtained  by  the  wife, 










\     ■.'' 



,  \. 







she  must  repay  to  her  first  husband  the  expenditure  incurred 
by  him  for  her  marriage  when  she  takes  a  second,  liut  the 
acceptance  of  this  payment  is  considered  derogatory  and  the 
husband  refuses  it  unless  he  is  poor. 

The  liasors  worship  the  ordinary  Hindu  deities  and  also  5.  Reii- 
ghosts  and  spirits.  Like  the  other  low  castes  they  entertain  focfaf" 
a  special  veneration  for  Devi.  They  profess  to  exorcise  evil  status. 
spirits  and  the  evil  eye,  and  to  cure  other  disorders  and  dis- 
eases through  the  agency  of  their  incantations  and  the  goblins 
who  do  their  bidding.  They  burn  their  dead  when  they  can 
afford  it  and  otherwise  bury  them,  placing  the  corpse  in  the 
grave  with  its  head  to  the  north.  The  body  of  a  woman  is 
wrapped  in  a  red  shroud  and  that  of  a  man  in  a  white  one. 
They  observe  mourning  for  a  period  of  three  to  ten  days, 
but  in  Jubbulpore  it  always  ends  with  the  fortnight  in  which 
the  death  takes  place  ;  so  that  a  person  dying  on  the  15  th 
or  30th  of  the  month  is  mourned  only  for  one  day.  They 
eat  almost  every  kind  of  food,  including  beef,  pork,  fowls, 
liquor  and  the  leavings  of  others,  but  abjure  crocodiles, 
monkeys,  snakes  and  rats.  Many  of  them  have  now  given 
up  eating  cow's  flesh  in  deference  to  Hindu  feeling.  They 
will  take  food  from  almost  any  caste  except  sweepers,  and 
one  or  two  others,  as  Joshi  and  Jasondhi,  towards  whom  for 
some  unexplained  reason  they  entertain  a  special  aversion. 
They  will  admit  outsiders  belonging  to  any  caste  from  whom 
they  can  take  food  into  the  community.  They  are  generally 
considered  as  impure,  and  live  outside  the  village,  and  their 
touch  conveys  pollution,  more  especially  in  the  Maratha 
Districts.  The  ordinary  village  menials,  as  the  barber  and 
washerman,  will  not  work  for  them,  and  services  of  this 
nature  are  performed  by  men  of  their  own  community.  As, 
however,  their  occupation  is  not  in  itself  unclean,  they  rank 
above  sweepers,  Chamars  and  Dhobis.  Temporary  exclusion 
from  caste  is  imposed  for  the  usual  offences,  and  the  almost 
invariable  penalty  for  readmission  is  a  feast  to  the  caste- 
fellows.  A  person,  male  or  female,  who  has  been  convicted 
of  adultery  must  have  the  head  shaved,  and  is  then  seated 
in  the  centre  of  the  caste-fellows  and  pelted  by  them  with 
the  leavings  of  their  food.  Basor  women  are  not  permitted 
to  wear  nose-rings  on  pain  of  exclusion  from  caste. 


6.  Occupa-  The  trade  of  the   Basors  is  a  very  essential  one  to  the 

^'°°-  agricultural    community.       They   make    numerous    kinds    of 

baskets,  among  which  may  be  mentioned  the  chujika,  a  very 
small  one,  the  tokni,  a  basket  of  middle  size,  and  the  iokna, 
a  very  large  one.  The  dauri  is  a  special  basket  with  a 
lining  of  matting  for  washing  rice  in  a  stream.  The  jhdnpi 
is  a  round  basket  with  a  cover  for  holding  clothes ;  the 
tipanna  a  small  one  in  which  girls  keep  dolls  ;  and  the 
bilahra  a  still  smaller  one  for  holding  betel-leaf.  Other 
articles  made  from  bamboo-bark  are  the  chalni  or  sieve,  the 
khunkhwia  or  rattle,  the  bdnsuri  or  wooden  flute,  the  bijna 
or  fan,  and  the  supa  or  winnowing-fan.  All  grain  is  cleaned 
with  the  help  of  the  supa  both  on  the  threshing-floor  and  in 
the  house  before  consumption,  and  a  child  is  always  laid  in 
one  as  soon  as  it  is  born.  In  towns  the  Basors  make  the 
bamboo  matting  which  is  so  much  used.  The  only  imple- 
ment they  employ  is  the  bdnka,  a  heavy  curved  knife,  with 
which  all  the  above  articles  are  made.  The  bdnka  is  duly 
worshipped  at  the  Diwali  festival.  The  Basors  are  also  the 
village  musicians,  and  a  band  of  three  or  four  of  them  play 
at  weddings  and  on  other  festive  occasions.  Some  of  them 
work  as  pig-breeders  and  others  are  village  watchmen.  The 
women  often  act  as  midwives.  One  subcaste,  the  Dumar, 
will  do  scavenger's  work,  but  they  never  take  employment 
as  saises,  because  the  touch  of  horse-dung  is  considered  as  a 
pollution,  entailing  temporary  excommunication  from  caste, 

r.  General  BedaP.^ — A  Small  castc  of  about  I  500  persons,  belonging 

notice.  J.Q  ^j^qI^^  Khandcsh  and  Hyderabad.  Their  ancestors  were 
J^indaris,  apparently  recruited  from  the  different  Maratha 
castes,  and  when  the  Pindaris  were  suppressed  they  obtained 
or  were  awarded  land  in  the  localities  where  they  now 
reside,  and  took  to  cultivation.  The  more  respectable 
Bedars  say  that  their  ancestors  were  Tirole  Kunbis,  but 
when  Tipu  Sultan  invaded  the  Carnatic  he  took  many  of 
them  prisoners  and  ordered  them  to  become  Muhammadans. 
In  order  to  please  him  they  took  food  with  Muhammadans, 

1   Based  on  a  paper  by  Rao  Sahib       Mr.  Adiiriim  Chaudhri  of  the  Gazetteer 
Dhonduji,  retired  Inspector  of  Police,       office. 
Akola,    and   information   collected   by 


and  on  this  account  the  Kunbis  i)ut  them  out  of  caste  until 
they  should  purify  themselves.  But  as  there  were  a  lar^^e 
number  of  them,  they  did  not  do  this,  and  have  remained  a 
separate  caste.  The  real  derivation  of  the  name  is  unknown, 
but  the  caste  say  that  it  is  be-dar  or  '  without  fear,'  and  was 
i^iven  to  them  on  account  of  their  bravery.  They  have  now 
obtained  a  warrant  from  the  descendant  of  Shankar  Acharya, 
or  the  high  priest  of  Sivite  Hindus,  permitting  them  to 
describe  themselves  as  Put  Kunbi  or  purified  Kunbi.^  The 
community  is  clearly  of  a  most  mixed  nature,  as  there  are 
also  Dher  or  Mahar  Bedars.  They  refuse  to  take  food  from 
other  Mahars  and  consider  themselves  defiled  by  their  touch. 
The  social  position  of  the  caste  also  presents  some  peculiar 
features.  Several  of  them  have  taken  service  in  the  army 
and  police,  and  have  risen  to  the  rank  of  native  officer  ;  and 
Rao  Sahib  Dhonduji,  a  retired  Inspector  of  Police,  is  a 
prominent  member  of  the  caste.  The  Raja  of  Surpur,  near 
Raichur,  is  also  said  to  be  a  Bedar,  while  others  are  ministerial 
officials  occupying  a  respectable  position.  Yet  of  the  Bedars 
generally  it  is  said  that  they  cannot  draw  water  freely  from 
the  public  wells,  and  in  Nasik  Bedar  constables  are  not  con- 
sidered suitable  for  ordinary  duty,  as  people  object  to  their 
entering  houses.  The  caste  must  therefore  apparently  have 
higher  and  lower  groups,  differing  considerably  in  position. 

They  have  three  subdivisions,  the  Maratha,  Telugu  and  2.  Sub- 
Kande  Bedars.      The  names  of  their  exogamous  sections  are  anT'°"^ 
also  Marathi.      Nevertheless  they  retain  one  or  two  northern  marriage 
customs,    presumably    acquired    from    association    with    the  ^^^  °"^^' 
Pindaris.       Their    women    do    not    tuck    the    body-cloth    in 
behind  the  waist,  but  draw  it  over  the  right  shoulder.      They 
wear  the  choli  or  Hindustani  breast-cloth  tied  in  front,  and 
have  a  hooped  silver  ornament  on  the  top  of  the  head,  which 
is  known  as  dJwra.      They  eat  goats,  fowls  and  the  flesh  of 
the  wild   pig,  and   drink   liquor,  and  will   take  food   from  a 
Kunbi  or  a  Phulmali,  and   pay  little  heed   to  the  rules  of 
social    impurity.       But    Hindustani    Brahmans    act   as   their 

Before  a  wedding  they  call  a  Brahman  and  worship  him 
as  a  god,  the  ceremony  being  known  as  Deo  Brahman.      The 

'   Mr.  Marten's  C.P.  Census  Report  (19 11),  p.  212. 



Brahman  then  cooks  food  in  the  house  of  his  host.  On  the 
same  occasion  a  person  specially  nominated  by  the  Brahman, 
and  known  as  Deokia,  fetches  an  earthen  vessel  from  the 
potter,  and  this  is  worshipped  with  offerings  of  turmeric  and 
rice,  and  a  cotton  thread  is  tied  round  it.  Formerly  it  is 
said  they  worshipped  the  spent  bullets  picked  up  after  a 
battle,  and  especially  any  which  had  been  extracted  from  the 
body  of  a  wounded  person. 
3.  Funeral  When  a  man  is  about  to  die  they  take  him  down  from 

his  cot  and  lay  him  on  the  ground  with  his  head  in  the  lap 
of  a  relative.  The  dead  are  buried,  a  person  of  importance 
being  carried  to  the  grave  in  a  sitting  posture,  while  others 
are  laid  out  in  the  ordinary  manner.  A  woman  is  buried  in 
a  green  cloth  and  a  breast-cloth.  When  the  corpse  has  been 
prepared  for  the  funeral  they  take  some  liquor,  and  after  a 
few  drops  have  been  poured  into  the  mouth  of  the  corpse  the 
assembled  persons  drink  the  rest.  While  following  to  the 
grave  they  beat  drums  and  play  on  musical  instruments  and 
sing  religious  songs  ;  and  if  a  man  dies  during  the  night, 
since  he  is  not  buried  till  the  morning,  they  sit  in  the  house 
playing  and  singing  for  the  remaining  hours  of  darkness. 
The  object  of  this  custom  must  presumably  be  to  keep  away 
evil  spirits.  After  the  funeral  each  man  places  a  leafy  branch 
of  some  tree  or  shrub  on  the  grave,  and  on  the  thirteenth 
day  they  put  food  before  a  cow  and  also  throw  some  on  to 
the  roof  of  the  house  as  a  portion  for  the  crows. 


list  of  paragraphs 

1.  General  notice.  4.    Other  ChJiattlsgarhi  Belddrs. 

2.  Belddrs  of  the  nor  titer n  Dis-  5.   MunurwCir  a7td  Telenga. 

tricts.  6.    Vaddar. 

3.  Odias  of  ChhattlsgarJi.  7.   Pdthrot. 

8.    Takdri. 

Beldar/  Od,  Sonkar,  Raj,  Larhia,  Karigar,  Matkuda, 
Chunkar,  Munurwar,  Thapatkari,  Vaddar,  Pathrot, 
Takari. — The  term  Beldar  is  generically  applied  to  a  number 
of  occupational  groups  of  more  or  less  diverse  origin,  who 
work  as  masons  or  navvies,  build  the  earthen  embankments 
of  tanks  or  fields,  carry  lime  and  bricks  and  in  former  times 
refined  salt.  Beldar  means  one  who  carries  a  bel^  a  hoe  or 
mattock.  In  191  i  a  total  of  25,000  Beldars  were  returned 
from  the  Central  Provinces,  being  most  numerous  in  the 
Nimar,  Wardha,  Nagpur,  Chanda  and  Raipur  districts. 
The  Nunia,  Murha  and  Sansia  (Uriya)  castes,  which  have 
been  treated  in  separate  articles,  are  also  frequently  known  as 
Beldar,  and  cannot  be  clearly  distinguished  from  the  main 
caste.  If  they  are  all  classed  together  the  total  of  the  earth- 
and  stone- working  castes  comes  to  35,000  persons. 

It  is  probable  that  the  bulk  of  the  Beldars  and  allied 
castes  are  derived  from  the  non-Aryan  tribes.  The  Murhas 
or  navvies  of  the  northern  Districts  appear  to  be  an  offshoot 
of  the  Bind  tribe  ;  the  people  known  as  Matkuda  (earth- 
digger)  are  usually  Gonds  or  Pardhans  ;  the  Sansias  and 
Larhias  or  Uriyas  of  Chhattlsgarh  and  the  Uriya  country 
seem  to  have  originated   from  the  Kol,  Bhuiya  and  Oraon 

1  This  article  is  based  on  papers  by       Raipur,  and  Munshi  Kanhiya  Lai,  of 
Mr.  A.  K.   Smith,  C.S.,  Mr.   Khande       the  Gazetteer  office. 
Rao,  Superintendent  of  Land  Records, 




tribes,  the  Kols  especially  making  excellent  diggers  and 
masons  ;  the  Oddes  or  Vaddars  of  Madras  are  a'  very  low 
caste,  and  some  of  their  customs  point  to  a  similar  origin, 
though  the  Munurwar  masons  of  Chanda  appear  to  have 
belonged  originally  to  the  Kapu  caste  of  cultivators. 

The  term  Raj,  which  is  also  used  for  the  Beldars  in  the 
northern  Districts,  has  the  distinctive  meaning  of  a  mason, 
while  Chunkar  signifies  a  lime-burner.  The  Sonkars  were 
formerly  occupied  in  Saugor  in  carrying  lime,  bricks  and 
earth  on  donkeys,  but  they  have  now  abandoned  this  calling 
in  Chhattlsgarh  and  taken  to  growing  vegetables,  and  have 
been  given  a  short  separate  notice.  In  Hoshangabad  some 
Muhammadan  Beldars  are  now  also  found. 

The  Beldars  of  Saugor  say  that  their  ancestors  were 
engaged  in  refining  salt  from  earth.  A  divine  saint  named 
Nona  Rlshi  {non,  salt)  came  down  on  earth,  and  while 
cooking  his  food  mixed  some  saline  soil  with  it.  The  bread 
tasted  much  better  in  consequence,  and  he  made  the  earth 
into  a  ball  or  goli  and  taught  his  followers  to  extract  the 
salt  from  it,  whence  their  descendants  are  known  as  Goli 
Beldars.  The  customs  of  these  Beldars  are  of  the  ordinary 
low-caste  type.  The  wedding  procession  is  accompanied 
by  drums,  fireworks  and,  if  means  permit,  a  nautch-girl. 
If  a  man  puts  away  his  wife  without  adequate  cause  the 
caste  panchdyat  may  compel  him  to  support  her  so  long  as 
she  remains  of  good  conduct.  The  party  seeking  a  divorce, 
whether  husband  or  wife,  has  to  pay  Rs.  y  to  the  caste 
committee  and  the  other  partner  Rs.  3,  irrespective  of  where 
the  blame  rests,  and  each  remains  out  of  caste  until  he  or 
she  pays. 

These  Beldars  will  not  take  food  from  any  caste  but 
their  own,  and  will  not  take  water  from  a  Brahman,  though 
they  will  accept  it  from  Kurmis,  Gujars  and  similar  castes. 
Sir  H.  Risley  notes  that  their  women  always  remove  earth 
in  baskets  on  the  head.  "  The  Beldars  regard  this  mode  of 
carrying  earth  as  distinctive  of  themselves,  and  will  on  no 
account  transport  it  in  baskets  slung  from  the  shoulders. 
They  work  very  hard  when  paid  by  the  piece,  and  are 
notorious  for  their  skill  in  manipulating  the  pillars  {sdkhi^ 
witness)  left  to   mark   work  done,  so  as  to  exaggerate  the 

1 1  on  I A  s  oh~  ciiUA  I  rise  A  i<ii  2 1 7 

measurement.  On  one  occasion  while  working  for  mc  on  a 
large  lake  at  Govindpur,  in  the  north  of  the  Manbhum 
District,  a  number  of  l^eldars  transplanted  an  entire  pillar 
during  the  night  and  claimed  payment  for  several  thousand 
feet  of  imaginary  earthwork.  The  fraud  was  most  skilfully 
carried  out,  and  was  only  detected  by  accident."  ^  The 
Beldars  are  often  dishonest  in  their  dealings,  and  will  take 
large  advances  for  a  tank  or  embankment,  and  then  abscond 
with  the  money  without  doing  the  work.  During  the  open 
season  parties  of  the  caste  travel  about  in  camp  looking  for 
work,  their  furniture  being  loaded  on  donkeys.  They  carry 
grain  in  earthen  pots  encased  in  bags  of  netting,  neatly  and 
closely  woven,  and  grind  their  wheat  daily  in  a  small  mill 
set  on  a  goat-skin.  Butter  is  made  in  one  of  their  pots  with 
a  churning-stick,  consisting  of  a  cogged  wheel  fixed  on  to 
the  end  of  a  wooden  rod. 

The  Beldars  of  ChhattTsgarh  are  divided  into  the  Odia  3.  Odias  of 
or  Uriya,  Larhia,  Kuchbandhia,  Matkuda  and  Karigar  j^^ 
groups.  Uriya  and  Larhia  are  local  names,  applied  to 
residents  of  the  Uriya  country  and  ChhattTsgarh  respectively. 
Odia  is  the  name  of  a  low  Madras  caste  of  masons,  but 
whether  it  is  a  corruption  of  Uriya  is  not  clear.  Karigar 
means  a  workman,  and  Kuchbandhia  is  the  name  of  a 
separate  caste,  who  make  loom-combs  for  weavers.  The 
Odias  pretend  to  be  fallen  Rajputs.  They  say  that  when 
Indra  stole  the  sacrificial  horse  of  Raja  Sagar  and  kept  it 
in  the  underworld,  the  Raja's  thousand  sons  dug  great  holes 
through  the  earth  to  get  it.  Finally  they  arrived  at  the 
underworld  and  were  all  reduced  to  ashes  by  the  Rishi 
Kapil  Muni,  who  dwelt  there.  Their  ghosts  besought  him 
for  life,  and  he  said  that  their  descendants  should  always 
continue  to  dig  holes  in  the  earth,  which  would  be  used  as 
tanks  ;  and  that  whenever  a  tank  was  dug  by  them,  and  its 
marriage  celebrated  with  a  sacrifice,  the  savour  of  the  sacrifice 
would  descend  to  the  ghosts  and  would  afford  them  sus- 
tenance. The  Odias  say  that  they  are  the  descendants  of 
the  Raja's  sons,  and  unless  a  tank  is  dug  and  its  marriage 
celebrated  by  them  it  remains  impure.  These  Odias  have 
their  tutelary  deity  in   Rewah    State,  and   at  his  shrine  is 

1    Tribes  and  Castes  of  Bengal,  art.  Beldar. 




a  flag  which  none  but  an  Odia  of  genuine  descent  from 
Raja  Sagar's  sons  can  touch  without  some  injury  befalling 
him.  If  any  Beldar  therefore  claims  to  belong  to  their  caste 
they  call  on  him  to  touch  the  flag,  and  if  he  does  so  with 
impunity  they  acknowledge  him  as  a  brother. 

The  other  groups  of  Chhattisgarhi  Beldars  are  of  lower 
status,  and  clearly  derived  from  the  non-Aryan  tribes. 
They  eat  pigs,  and  at  intervals  of  two  or  three  years  they 
celebrate  the  worship  of  Gosain  Deo  with  a  sacrifice  of  pigs, 
the  deity  being  apparently  a  deified  ascetic  or  mendicant. 
On  this  occasion  the  Dhlmars,  Gonds,  and  all  other  castes 
which  eat  pig's  flesh  join  in  the  sacrifice,  and  consume  the 
meat  together  after  the  fashion  of  the  rice  at  Jagannath's 
temple,  which  all  castes  may  eat  together  without  becoming 
impure.  These  Beldars  use  asses  for  the  transport  of  their 
bricks  and  stones,  and  on  the  Diwali  day  they  place  a  lamp 
before  the  ass  and  pay  reverence  to  it.  They  say  that  at 
their  marriages  a  bride-price  of  Rs.  loo  or  Rs.  200  must 
always  be  paid,  but  they  are  allowed  to  give  one  or  two 
donkeys  and  value  them  at  Rs.  50  apiece.  They  make 
grindstones  {chakki),  combs  for  straightening  the  threads  on 
the  loom,  and  frames  for  stretching  the  threads.  These 
frames  are  called  dongi,  and  are  made  either  wholly  or 
partly  from  the  horns  of  animals,  a  fact  which  no  doubt 
renders  them  impure. 

In  Chanda  the  principal  castes  of  stone-workers  are  the 
Telengas  (Telugus),  who  are  also  known  as  Thapatkari 
(tapper  or  chiseller),  Telenga  Kunbi  and  Munurwar.  They 
occupy  a  higher  position  than  the  ordinary  Beldar,  and 
Kunbis  will  take  water  from  them  and  sometimes  food. 
They  say  that  they  came  into  Chanda  from  the  Telugu 
country  along  the  Godavari  and  Pranhita  rivers  to  build 
the  great  wall  of  Chanda  and  the  palaces  and  tombs  of 
the  Gond  kings.  There  is  no  reason  to  doubt  that  the 
Munurwars  are  a  branch  of  the  Kapu  cultivating  caste  of  the 
Telugu  country.  Mr.  A.  K.  Smith  states  that  they  refuse 
to  eat  the  flesh  of  an  animal  which  has  been  skinned  by  a 
Mahar,  a  Chamar,  or  a  Gond  ;  the  Kunbis  and  Marathas 
also  consider  flesh  touched  by  a  Mahar  or  Chamar  to  be 
impure,    but   do    not    object    to    a    Gond.      Like    the    Berar 

II  VAPDAK  219 

Kuiibis,  the  Telengas  prefer  that  an  animal  should  be  killed 
by  the  rite  of  haldl  as  practised  by  Muhamnaadan  butchers. 
The  reason  no  doubt  is  that  the  haldl  is  a  method  of 
sacrificial  slaughter,  and  the  killing  of  the  animal  is  legiti- 
mised even  though  by  the  ritual  of  a  foreign  religion.  The 
Thapatkaris  appear  to  be  a  separate  group,  and  their  original 
profession  was  to  collect  and  retail  jungle  fruits  and  roots 
having  medicinal  properties.  Though  the  majority  have 
become  stone-  and  earth-workers  some  of  them  still  do  this. 

The  Vaddars  or  Wadewars  are  a  branch  of  the  Odde  6.  Vaddar. 
caste  of  Madras.  They  are  almost  an  impure  caste,  and  a 
section  of  them  are  professional  criminals.  Their  women 
wear  glass  bangles  only  on  the  left  arm,  those  on  the  right 
arm  being  made  of  brass  or  other  metal.  This  rule  has  no 
doubt  been  introduced  because  glass  bangles  would  get 
broken  when  they  were  supporting  loads  on  the  head. 
The  men  often  wear  an  iron  bangle  on  the  left  wrist, 
which  they  say  keeps  off  the  lightning.  Mr.  Thurston 
states  that  "  Women  who  have  had  seven  husbands  are 
much  respected  among  the  Oddes,  and  their  blessing  on 
a  bridal  pair  is  greatly  prized.  They"  work  in  gangs  on 
contract,  and  every  one,  except  very  old  and  very  young, 
shares  in  the  labour.  The  women  carry  the  earth  in 
baskets,  while  the  men  use  the  pick  and  spade.  The  babies 
are  usually  tied  up  in  cloths,  which  are  suspended,  hammock- 
fashion,  from  the  boughs  of  trees.  A  woman  found  guilty  of 
immorality  is  said  to  have  to  carry  a  basketful  of  earth  from 
house  to  house  before  she  is  readmitted  to  the  caste.  The 
stone-cutting  Vaddars  are  the  principal  criminals,  and  by  going 
about  under  the  pretence  of  mending  grindstones  they  obtain 
much  useful  information  as  to  the  houses  to  be  looted  or 
parties  of  travellers  to  be  attacked.  In  committing  a  highway 
robbery  or  dacoity  they  are  always  armed  with  stout  sticks."  ^ 

In  Berar  besides  the  regular  Beldars  two  castes  of  stone-  7.  Pathrot. 
workers  are  found,  the  Pathrawats  or  Pathrots  (stone-breakers) 
and  the  Takaris,  who  should  perhaps  be  classed  as  separate 
castes.  Both  make  and  sharpen  millstones  and  grindstones, 
and  they  are  probably  only  occupational  groups  of  recent 
formation.  The  Takaris  are  connected  with  the  Pardhi  caste 
1   The  Castes  and  Tribes  of  Southern  India,  art.  Odde. 

220  BERT  A  PART 

of  professional  hunters  and  fowlers  and  may  be  a  branch  of 
them.  The  social  customs  of  the  Pathrots  resemble  those 
of  the  Kunbis.  "  They  will  take  cooked  food  from  a  Sutar 
or  a  Kumbhar.  Imprisonment,  the  killing  of  a  cow  or 
criminal  intimacy  of  a  man  with  a  woman  of  another  caste 
is  punished  by  temporary  outcasting,  readmission  involving 
a  fine  of  Rs.  4  or  Rs.  5.  Their  chief  deity  is  the  Devi  of 
Tuljapur  and  their  chief  festival  Dasahra  ;  the  implements 
of  the  caste  are  worshipped  twice  a  year,  on  Gudhi  Padwa 
and  Diwali.  Women  are  tattooed  with  a  crescent  between 
the  eyebrows  and  dots  on  the  right  side  of  the  nose,  the 
right  cheek,  and  the  chin,  and  a  basil  plant  or  peacock  is 
drawn  on  their  wrists."  ^ 
8.  Takari.  "  The  Takaris  take  their  name  from   the  verb  tdkne,  to 

reset  or  rechisel.  They  mend  the  handmills  {chakkis)  used 
for  grinding  corn,  an  occupation  which  is  sometimes  shared 
with  them  by  the  Langoti  Pardhis.  The  Takari's  avocation 
of  chiselling  grindstones  gives  him  excellent  opportunities 
for  examining  the  interior  economy  of  houses,  and  the  posi- 
tion of  boxes  and  cupboards,  and  for  gauging  the  wealth 
of  the  inmates.  They  are  the  most  inveterate  house-breakers 
and  dangerous  criminals.  A  form  of  crime  favoured  by 
the  Takari,  in  common  with  many  other  criminal  classes,  is 
that  of  decoying  into  a  secluded  spot  outside  the  village 
the  would-be  receiver  of  stolen  property  and  robbing  him 
ot  his  cash — a  trick  which  carries  a  wholesome  lesson  with 
it."  ^  The  chisel  with  which  they  chip  the  grindstones 
furnishes,  as  stated  by  Mr.  D.  A.  Smyth,  D.S.P.,  an  excel- 
lent implement  for  breaking  a  hole  through  the  mud  wall 
of  a  house. 

Beria,  Bedia. 

[Bibliography.  Sir  H.  Risley's  Tribes  and  Castes  of  Bengal ;  Rajendra  Lai 
Mitra  in  Memoirs,  Anthropological  Society  of  London,  iii.  p.  122;  Mr.  Crooke's 
Tribes  and  Castes  of  the  A^orth-  IVestern  Provinces  and  Oudh  ;  Mr.  Kennedy's 
Criminal  Classes  of  the  Bombay  Presidency ;  Major  Gunthorpe's  Criminal 
Tribes  ;  Mr.  Gayer's  Lectures  on  some  Criininal  Tribes  of  the  Central  Pro- 
vinces ;  Colonel  Sleeman's  Report  on  the  Badhak  or  Bdgri  Dacoits.'] 

I.  nistori-  A   caste   of  gipsies   and   thieves    who    are    closely  con- 

cai  notice,    nccted  with   the    Sansias.       In    1891    they    numbered    906 

1  Akola  District  Gazetteer  (Mr.   C.  ^  Ai?vaoti  District  Gazetteer  (Messrs. 

Brown),  pp.  132,  133.  Nelson  and  Fitzgerald),  p.  146. 

II  BERIA  221 

persons  in  the  Central  Provinces,  distributed  over  the 
northern  Districts  ;  in  1 90 1  they  were  not  separately 
classified  but  were  identified  with  the  Nats.  "  They  say 
that  some  generations  ago  two  brothers  resided  in  the 
Bhartpur  territory,  of  whom  one  was  named  Sains  Mul  and 
the  other  Mullanur.  The  descendants  of  Sains  Mul  are  the 
Sansias  and  those  of  Mullanur  the  Berias  or  Kolhatis,  who 
are  vagrants  and  robbers  by  hereditary  profession,  living  in 
tents  or  huts  of  matting,  like  Nats  or  other  vagrant  tribes, 
and  having  their  women  in  common  without  any  marriage 
ceremonies  or  ties  whatsoever.  Among  themselves  or  their 
relatives  the  Sansias  or  descendants  of  Sains  Mul,  they  are 
called  Dholi  or  Kolhati.  The  descendants  of  the  brothers 
cat,  drink  and  smoke  together,  and  join  in  robberies,  but 
never  intermarry."  So  Colonel  Sleeman  wrote  in  1849, 
and  other  authorities  agree  on  the  close  connection  or  identity 
of  the  Berias  and  Sansias  of  Central  India.  The  Kolhatis 
belong  mainly  to  the  Deccan  and  are  apparently  a  branch 
of  the  Berias,  named  after  the  Kolhdn  or  long  pole  with 
which  they  perform  acrobatic  feats.  The  Berias  of  Central 
India  differ  in  many  respects  from  those  of  Bengal.  Here 
Sir  H,  Risley  considers  Beria  to  be  '  the  generic  name  of  a 
number  of  vagrant,  gipsy-like  groups '  ;  and  a  full  descrip- 
tion of  them  has  been  given  by  Babu  Rajendra  Lai  Mitra, 
who  considers  them  to  resemble  the  gipsies  of  Europe. 
"  They  are  noted  for  a  light,  elastic,  wiry  make,  very  uncom- 
mon in  the  people  of  this  country.  In  agility  and  hardness 
they  stand  unrivalled.  The  men  are  of  a  brownish  colour, 
like  the  bulk  of  Bengalis,  but  never  black.  The  women  are 
of  lighter  complexion  and  generally  well-formed  ;  some  of 
them  have  considerable  claims  to  beauty,  and  for  a  race  so 
rude  and  primitive  in  their  habits  as  the  Berias,  there  is  a 
sharpness  in  the  features  of  their  women  which  we  see  in  no 
other  aboriginal  race  in  India.  Like  the  gipsies  of  Europe 
they  are  noted  for  the  symmetry  of  their  limbs  ;  but  their 
offensive  habits,  dirty  clothing  and  filthy  professions 
give  them  a  repulsive  appearance,  which  is  heightened 
by  the  reputation  they  have  of  kidnapping  children  and 
frequenting  burial-grounds  and  places  of  cremation.  .  .  . 
Familiar  with  the  use  of  bows  and  arrows  and  great  adepts  in 


laying  snares  and  traps,  they  are  seldom  without  large  supplies 
of  game  and  flesh  of  wild  animals  of  all  kinds.  They  keep 
the  dried  bodies  of  a  variety  of  birds  for  medical  purposes  ; 
mongoose,  squirrels  and  flying-foxes  they  eat  with  avidity  as 
articles  of  luxury.  Spirituous  liquors  and  intoxicating  drugs 
are  indulged  in  to  a  large  extent,  and  chiefs  of  clans  assume 
the  title  of  Bhangi  or  drinkers  of  hemp  ibJidng)  as  a 
mark  of  honour.  ...  In  lying,  thieving  and  knavery  the 
Beria  is  not  a  whit  inferior  to  his  brother  gipsy  of  Europe. 
The  Beria  woman  deals  in  charms  for  exorcising  the 
devil  and  palmistry  is  her  special  vocation.  She  also  carries 
with  her  a  bundle  of  herbs  and  other  real  or  pretended 
charms  against  sickness  of  body  or  mind  ;  and  she  is 
much  sought  after  by  village  maidens  for  the  sake  of  the 
philtre  with  which  she  restores  to  them  their  estranged 
lovers  ;  while  she  foretells  the  date  when  absent  friends 
will  return  and  the  sex  of  unborn  children.  They  practise 
cupping  with  buffalo  horns,  pretend  to  extract  worms  from 
decayed  teeth  and  are  commonly  employed  as  tattooers. 
At  home  the  Beria  woman  makes  mats  of  palm-leaves, 
while  her  lord  alone  cooks.  .  .  .  Beria  women  are  even 
more  circumspect  than  European  gipsies.  If  a  wife  does 
not  return  before  the  jackal's  cry  is  heard  in  the  evening,  she 
is  subject  to  severe  punishment.  It  is  said  that  a  faux  pas 
among  her  own  kindred  is  not  considered  reprehensible  ; 
but  it  is  certain  that  no  Berini  has  ever  been  known  to  be 
at  fault  with  any  one  not  of  her  own  caste."  This  last  state- 
ment is  not  a  little  astonishing,  inasmuch  as  in  Central 
India  and  in  Bundelkhand  Berni  is  an  equivalent  term 
for  a  prostitute.  A  similar  diversity  of  conjugal  morality 
has  been  noticed  between  the  Bagris  of  northern  India  and 
the  Vaghris  of  Gujarat.^ 
2.  Criminal  ^^   Other  rcspects  also  the  Berias  of  Bengal  appear  to 

tendencies    ^e  morc  respectable  than  the  remainder  of  the  caste,  obtain- 
Centrai       i"g  thcir  livelihood  by  means  which,  if  disreputable,  are  not 
Provinces,    actually  dishonest ;  while  in  Central  India  the  women  Berias 
are   prostitutes   and    the    men    house-breakers    and    thieves. 
These  latter  are  so  closely  connected   with  the  Sansias  that 
the  account  of  that  caste  is  also  applicable  to  the  Berias. 

'   See  article  on  Badhak. 



In  Jubbulporc,  Mr.  Gayer  states,  tlic  caste  are  expert  house- 
breakers, bold  and  daring,  and  sometimes  armed  with  swords 
and  matchlocks.  They  sew  up  stolen  property  in  their  bed- 
quilts  and  secrete  it  in  the  hollow  legs  of  their  sleeping-cots, 
and  the  women  habitually  conceal  jewels  and  even  coins  in 
the  natural  passages  of  the  body,  in  which  they  make  special 
saos  or  receptacles  by  practice.  The  Beria  women  go  about 
begging,  and  often  break  open  the  doors  of  unoccupied 
houses  in  the  daytime  and  steal  anything  they  can  find.! 
Both  Sansia  and  Beria  women  wear  a  laong  or  clove  in  the 
left  nostril. 

As  already  stated,  the  women  are  professional  prostitutes,  3.  Social 
but  these  do  not  marry,  and  on  arrival  at  maturity  they 
choose  the  life  which  they  prefer.  Mr.  Crooke  states,"  how- 
ever, that  regular  marriages  seldom  occur  among  them, 
because  nearly  all  the  girls  are  reserved  for  prostitution, 
and  the  men  keep  concubines  drawn  from  any  fairly  respect- 
able caste.  So  far  is  this  the  rule  that  in  some  localities  if 
a  man  marries  a  girl  of  the  tribe  he  is  put  out  of  caste  or 
obliged  to  pay  a  fine  to  the  tribal  council.  This  last  rule 
does  not  seem  to  obtain  in  the  Central  Provinces,  but 
marriages  are  uncommon.  In  a  colony  of  Berias  in  Jubbul- 
pore  ^  numbering  sixty  families  it  was  stated  that  only  eight 
weddings  could  be  remembered  as  having  occurred  in  the 
last  fifty  years.  The  boys  therefore  have  to  obtain  wives  as 
best  they  can  ;  sometimes  orphan  girls  from  other  castes 
are  taken  into  the  community,  or  any  outsider  is  picked  up. 
For  a  bride  from  the  caste  itself  a  sum  of  Rs.  100  is  usually 
demanded,  and  the  same  has  to  be  paid  by  a  Beria  man 
who  takes  a  wife  from  the  Nat  or  Kanjar  castes,  as  is  some- 
times done.  When  a  match  is  proposed  they  ask  the 
expectant  bridegroom  how  many  thefts  he  has  committed 
without  detection  ;  and  if  his  performances  have  been 
inadequate  they  refuse  to  give  him  the  girl  on  the  ground 
that  he  will  be  unable  to  support  a  wife.  At  the  betrothal 
the  boy's  parents  go  to  the  girl's  house,  taking  with  them  a 
potful   of  liquor  round   which  a   silver  ring  is  placed  and  a 

1  Kennedy,  p.  247.  from    a   note    by    Mr.    K.    N.    Date, 

2  Crooke,  art.  Beria.  Deputy    Superintendent,    Reformatory 
^  The  following  particulars  are  taken       School,  Jubbulpore. 


pig.  The  ring  is  given  to  the  girl  and  the  head  of  the  pig 
to  her  father,  while  the  liquor  and  the  body  of  the  pig 
provide  a  feast  for  the  caste.  They  consult  Brahmans  at 
their  birth  and  marriage  ceremonies.  Their  principal  deities 
appear  to  be  their  ancestors,  whom  they  worship  on  the 
same  day  of  the  month  and  year  as  that  on  which  their 
death  took  place.  They  make  an  offering  of  a  pig  to  the 
goddess  Dadaju  or  Devi  before  starting  on  their  annual 
predatory  excursions.  Some  rice  is  thrown  into  the  animal's 
ear  before  it  is  killed,  and  the  direction  in  which  it  turns  its 
head  is  selected  as  the  one  divinely  indicated  for  their  route. 
Prostitution  is  naturally  not  regarded  as  any  disgrace,  and 
the  women  who  have  selected  this  profession  mix  on  perfectly 
equal  terms  with  those  who  are  married.  They  occupy,  in 
fact,  a  more  independent  position,  as  they  dispose  absolutely 
of  their  own  earnings  and  property,  and  on  their  death  it 
devolves  on  their  daughters  or  other  female  relatives,  males 
having  no  claim  to  it,  in  some  localities  at  least.  Among 
the  children  of  married  couples  daughters  inherit  equally 
with  sons.  A  prostitute  is  regarded  as  the  head  of  the 
family  so  far  as  her  children  are  concerned.  Outsiders  are 
freely  admitted  into  the  caste  on  giving  a  feast  to  the 
community.  In  Saugor  the  women  of  the  caste,  known  as 
Berni,  are  the  village  dancing-girls,  and  are  employed  to 
give  performances  in  the  cold  weather,  especially  at  the 
Holi  festival,  where  they  dance  the  whole  night  through, 
fortified  by  continuous  potations  of  liquor.  This  dance  is 
called  rai,  and  is  accompanied  by  most  obscene  songs  and 



1.  TJie    ifibe   derived  from    the         4.   Marriage. 

Baigas.  5.   Religious  superstitio7is. 

2.  Closely     connected    with     the         6.   Admission    of  outsiders    ajid 

Kawars.  caste  offences. 

3.  Internal  structure.    Totem  ism.         7.   Social  customs. 

Bhaina.^ — A    primitive    tribe    peculiar    to    the    Central  i-  The 
Provinces  and  found  principally  in  the  Bilaspur  District  and  derived 
the  adjoining  area,  that  is,  in  the  wild  tract  of  forest  country  f'om  the 
between    the    Satpura   range  and  the    south    of  the   Chota    ^'^^^' 
Nagpur  plateau.      In   191 1    about    17,000   members  of  the 
tribe  were  returned.      The  tribe  is    of  mixed    descent  and 
appears  to  have  been  derived  principally  from   the  Baigas 
and  Kawars,  having  probably  served   as  a  city  of  refuge  to 
persons  expelled  from  these  and  other  tribes  and  the  lower 
castes  for  irregular  sexual  relations.      Their  connection  with 
the  Baigas  is  shown  by  the  fact  that  in  Mandla  the  Baigas 
have   two   subdivisions,  which    are    known    as    Rai  or   Raj- 
Bhaina,  and   Kath,  or  catechu-making  Bhaina.      The  name 
therefore  would   appear  to  have  originated  with  the  Baiga 
tribe,      A    Bhaina    is    also    not    infrequently    found    to    be 
employed  in  the  office  of  village  priest  and  magician,  which 
goes  by  the  name  of  Baiga  in  Bilaspur.      And  a  Bhaina  has 
the  same   reputation   as  a  Baiga  for  sorcery,  it  being  said 
of  him — 

Mainhar  ki  manjh 

Bhaina  ki  pang 

1  This  article  is  based  principally  by  Mr.  Syed  Sher  Ali,  Naib-Tahsildar, 
on  a  paper  by  Panna  Lai,  Revenue  Mr.  Hira  Lai  and  Mr.  Aduram  Chaud- 
Inspector,  Bilaspur,  and  also  on  papers       hri  of  the  Gazetteer  office. 

VOL.  II  225  Q 

226  B  HA  IN  A  PART 

or  '  The  magic  of  a  Bhaina  is  as  deadly  as  the  powdered 
maiftkdr  fruit,'  this  fruit  having  the  property  of  stupefying 
fish  when  thrown  into  the  water,  so  that  they  can  easily  be 
caught.  This  reputation  simply  arises  from  the  fact  that  in 
his  capacity  of  village  priest  the  Bhaina  performs  the  various 
magical  devices  which  lay  the  ghosts  of  the  dead,  protect 
the  village  against  tigers,  ensure  the  prosperity  of  the  crops 
and  so  on.  But  it  is  always  the  older  residents  of  any 
locality  who  are  employed  by  later  comers  in  this  office, 
because  they  are  considered  to  have  a  more  intimate  acquaint- 
ance with  the  local  deities.  And  consequently  we  are 
entitled  to  assume  that  the  Bhainas  are  older  residents  of 
the  country  where  they  are  found  than  their  neighbours,  the 
Gonds  and  Kawars.  There  is  other  evidence  to  the  same 
effect  ;  for  instance,  the  oldest  forts  in  Bilaspur  are  attributed 
to  the  Bhainas,  and  a  chief  of  this  tribe  is  remembered  as 
having  ruled  in  Bilaigarh  ;  they  are  also  said  to  have  been 
dominant  in  Pendra,  where  they  are  still  most  numerous, 
though  the  estate  is  now  held  by  a  Kawar  ;  and  it  is  related 
that  the  Bhainas  were  expelled  from  Phuljhar  in  Raipur  by 
the  Gonds.  Phuljhar  is  believed  to  be  a  Gond  State  of  long 
standing,  and  the  Raja  of  Raigarh  and  others  claim  to  be 
descended  from  its  ruling  family.  A  manuscript  history  of 
the  Phuljhar  chiefs  records  that  that  country  was  held  by 
a  Bhaina  king  when  the  Gonds  invaded  it,  coming  from 
Chanda.  The  Bhaina  with  his  soldiers  took  refuge  in  a 
hollow  underground  chamber  with  two  exits.  But  the  secret 
of  this  was  betrayed  to  the  Gonds  by  an  old  Gond  woman, 
and  they  filled  up  the  openings  of  the  chamber  with  grass 
and  burnt  the  Bhainas  to  death.  On  this  account  the  tribe 
will  not  enter  Phuljhar  territory  to  this  day,  and  say  that  it 
is  death  to  a  Bhaina  to  do  so.  The  Binjhwars  are  also  said 
to  have  been  dominant  in  the  hills  to  the  east  of  Raipur 
District,  and  they  too  are  a  civilised  branch  of  the  Baigas. 
And  in  all  this  area  the  village  priest  is  commonly  known 
as  Baiga,  the  deduction  from  which  is,  as  already  stated,  that 
the  Baigas  were  the  oldest  residents.^  It  seems  a  legitimate 
conclusion,  therefore,  that  prior   to   the  immigration   of  the 

*  For  the  meaning  of  the  term  Baiga  and  its  application  to  the  tribe,  see  also 
article  on  Bhuiya. 

11  CLOSELY  CONNECTED   W/77/  /'//E  K A  WARS        227 

Gonds  and  Kawars,  the  ancient  Baiga  tribe  was  spread 
over  the  whole  hill  country  east  and  north  of  the  Mahanadi 

The  Bhainas  are  also  closely  connected  with  the  Kawars,  =■  cioseiy 
who  still  own  many  large  estates  in  the  hills  north  of  Bilas-  wTtirthe 
pur.  It  is  said  that  formerly  the  Bhainas  and  Kawars  both  Kawars. 
ate  in  common  and  intermarried,  but  at  present,  though  the 
Bhainas  still  eat  rice  boiled  in  water  from  the  Kawars,  the 
latter  do  not  reciprocate.  But  still,  when  a  Kawar  is  cele- 
brating a  birth,  marriage  or  death  in  his  family,  or  when  he 
takes  in  hand  to  make  a  tank,  he  will  first  give  food  to  a 
Bhaina  before  his  own  caste-men  eat.  And  it  may  safely 
be  assumed  that  this  is  a  recognition  of  the  Bhaina's  position 
as  having  once  been  lord  of  the  land.  A  Kawar  may  still 
be  admitted  into  the  Bhaina  community,  and  it  is  said  that 
the  reason  of  the  rupture  of  the  former  equal  relations 
between  the  two  tribes  was  the  disgust  felt  by  the  Kawars 
for  the  rude  and  uncouth  behaviour  of  the  Bhainas.  For 
on  one  occasion  a  Kawar  went  to  ask  for  a  Bhaina  girl  in 
marriage,  and,  as  the  men  of  the  family  were  away,  the 
women  undertook  to  entertain  him.  And  as  the  Bhainas 
had  no  axes,  the  daughter  proceeded  to  crack  the  sticks  on 
her  head  for  kindling  a  fire,  and  for  grass  she  pulled  out 
a  wisp  of  thatch  from  the  roof  and  broke  it  over  her  thigh, 
being  unable  to  chop  it.  This  so  offended  the  delicate 
susceptibilities  of  the  Kawar  that  he  went  away  without 
waiting  for  his  meal,  and  from  that  time  the  Kawars  ceased 
to  marry  with  the  Bhainas.  It  seems  possible  that  the 
story  points  to  the  period  when  the  primitive  Bhainas  and 
Baigas  did  not  know  the  use  of  iron  and  to  the  introduction 
of  this  metal  by  the  later-coming  Kawars  and  Gonds.  It 
is  further  related  that  when  a  Kawar  is  going  to  make  a 
ceremonial  visit  he  likes  always  to  take  with  him  two  or 
three  Bhainas,  who  are  considered  as  his  retainers,  though 
not  being  so  in  fact.  This  enhances  his  importance,  and  it 
is  also  said  that  the  stupidity  of  the  Bhainas  acts  as  a  foil, 
through  which  the  superior  intelligence  of  the  Kawar  is  made 
more  apparent.  All  these  details  point  to  the  same  con- 
clusion that  the  primitive  Bhainas  first  held  the  country  and 
were  supplanted   by  the  more  civilised   Kawars,  and   bears 

structure  : 


out  the  theory  that  the  settlement  of  the  Munda  tribes  was 
prior  to  those  of  the  Dravidian  family. 
3.  Internal  The  tribe  has  two  subdivisions  of  a  territorial  nature, 

Laria  or  Chhattlsgarhi,  and  Uriya.  The  Uriya  Bhainas 
will  accept  food  cooked  without  water  from  the  Sawaras 
or  Saonrs,  and  these  also  from  them  ;  so  that  they  have 
probably  intermarried.  Two  other  subdivisions  recorded 
are  the  Jhalyara  and  Ghantyara  or  Ghatyara  ;  the  former 
being  so  called  because  they  live  in  jJidlas  or  leaf  huts  in 
the  forest,  and  the  latter,  it  is  said,  because  they  tie  a  glianta 
or  bell  to  their  doors.  This,  however,  seems  very  im- 
probable. Another  theory  is  that  the  word  is  derived  from 
ghdt^  a  slope  or  descent,  and  refers  to  a  method  which  the 
tribe  have  of  tattooing  themselves  with  a  pattern  of  lines 
known  as  gJidt.  Or  it  is  said  to  mean  a  low  or  despised 
section.  The  Jhalyara  and  Ghatyara  divisions  comprise 
the  less  civilised  portion  of  the  tribe,  who  still  live  in  the 
forests ;  and  they  are  looked  down  on  by  the  Uriya  and 
Laria  sections,  who  belong  to  the  open  country.  The 
exogamous  divisions  of  the  tribe  show  clearly  enough  that 
the  Bhainas,  like  other  subject  races,  have  quite  failed  to 
preserve  any  purity  of  blood.  Among  the  names  of  their 
gots  or  septs  are  Dhobia  (a  washerman),  Ahera  (cowherd), 
Gond,  Mallin  (gardener),  Panika  (from  a  Panka  or  Ganda) 
and  others.  The  members  of  such  septs  pay  respect  to 
any  man  belonging  to  the  caste  after  which  they  are  named 
and  avoid  picking  a  quarrel  with  him.  They  also  worship 
the  family  gods  of  this  caste.  The  tribe  have  also  a  number 
of  totem  septs,  named  after  animals  or  plants.  Such  are 
Nag  the  cobra,  Bagh  the  tiger,  Chitwa  the  leopard,  Gidha 
the  vulture,  Besra  the  hawk,  Bendra  the  monkey,  Kok  or 
Lodha  the  wild  dog,  Bataria  the  quail,  Durgachhia  the 
black  ant,  and  so  on.  Members  of  a  sept  will  not  injure 
the  animal  after  which  it  is  named,  and  if  they  see  the 
corpse  of  the  animal  or  hear  of  its  death,  they  throw  away 
an  earthen  cooking -pot  and  bathe  and  shave  themselves 
as  for  one  of  the  family.  Members  of  the  Baghchhal  or 
tiger  sept  will,  however,  join  in  a  beat  for  tiger  though  they 
are  reluctant  to  do  so.  At  weddings  the  Bhainas  have  a 
ceremony  known   as   the  goU-a  worship.      The   bride's   father 

II  MARRrACK  229 

makes  an  image  in  clay  of  the  bird  or  animal  of  the  groom's 
sept  and  places  it  beside  the  marriage-post.  The  bride- 
groom worships  the  image,  lighting  a  sacrificial  fire  before 
it,  and  offers  to  it  the  vermilion  which  he  afterwards  smears 
upon  the  forehead  of  the  bride.  At  the  bridegroom's  house 
a  similar  image  is  made  of  the  bride's  totem,  and  on  return- 
ing there  after  the  wedding  she  worships  this.  Women 
are  often  tattooed  with  representations  of  their  totem 
animal,  and  men  swear  by  it  as  their  most  sacred  oath.  A 
similar  respect  is  paid  to  the  inanimate  objects  after  which 
certain  septs  are  named.  Thus  members  of  the  Gawad  or 
cowdung  sept  will  not  burn  cowdung  cakes  for  fuel  ;  and 
those  of  the  Mircha  sept  do  not  use  chillies.  One  sept  is 
named  after  the  sun,  and  when  an  eclipse  occurs  these 
perform  the  same  formal  rites  of  mourning  as  the  others 
do  on  the  death  of  their  totem  animal.  Some  of  the  groups 
have  two  divisions,  male  and  female,  which  practically  rank  as 
separate  septs.  Instances  of  these  are  the  Nagbans  Andura 
and  the  Nagbans  Mai  or  male  and  female  cobra  septs  ; 
the  Karsayal  Singhara  and  Karsayal  Mundi  or  stag  and  doe 
deer  septs  ;  and  the  Baghchhal  Andura  and  Baghchhal  Mai 
or  tiger  and  tigress  septs.  These  may  simply  be  instances 
of  subdivisions  arising  owing  to  the  boundaries  of  the  sept 
having  become  too  large  for  convenience. 

The  tribe  consider  that  a  boy  should  be  married  when  4.  Mar- 
he  has  learnt  to  drive  the  plough,  and  a  girl  when  she  is  "^^^" 
able  to  manage  her  household  affairs.  When  a  father  can 
afford  a  bride  for  his  son,  he  and  his  relatives  go  to  the 
girl's  village,  taking  with  them  ten  or  fifteen  cakes  of  bread 
and  a  bottle  of  liquor.  He  stays  with  some  relative  and 
sends  to  ask  the  girl's  father  if  he  will  give  his  daughter  to 
the  inquirer's  son.  If  the  former  agrees,  the  bread  and 
liquor  are  sent  over  to  him,  and  he  drinks  three  cups  of  the 
spirit  as  a  pledge  of  the  betrothal,  the  remainder  being 
distributed  to  the  company.  This  is  known  as  Tatia 
kJiobia  or  '  the  opening  of  the  door,'  and  is  followed  some 
days  afterwards  by  a  similar  ceremonial  which  constitutes 
the  regular  betrothal.  On  this  occasion  the  father  agrees 
to  marry  his  daughter  within  a  year  and  demands  the  bride- 
price,  which  consists  of  rice,  cloth,  a  goat  and   other  articles, 

230  B  HA  IN  A  PART 

the  total  value  being  about  five  rupees.  A  date  is  next 
fixed  for  the  wedding,  the  day  selected  being  usually  a 
Monday  or  Friday,  but  no  date  or  month  is  forbidden.  The 
number  of  days  to  the  wedding  are  then  counted,  and  two 
knotted  strings  are  given  to  each  party,  with  a  knot  for 
each  day  up  to  that  on  which  the  anointings  with  oil  and 
turmeric  will  commence  at  the  bridegroom's  and  bride's 
houses.  Every  day  one  knot  is  untied  at  each  house  up  to 
that  on  which  the  ceremonies  begin,  and  thus  the  correct 
date  for  them  is  known.  The  invitations  to  the  wedding 
are  given  by  distributing  rice  coloured  yellow  with  turmeric 
to  all  members  of  the  caste  in  the  locality,  with  the  intima- 
tion that  the  wedding  procession  will  start  on  a  certain  day 
and  that  they  will  be  pleased  to  attend.  During  the  four 
days  that  they  are  being  anointed  the  bride  and  bridegroom 
dance  at  their  respective  houses  to  the  accompaniment  of 
drums  and  other  instruments.  For  the  wedding  ceremony 
a  number  of  Hindu  rites  have  been  adopted.  The  eldest 
sister  of  the  bridegroom  or  bride  is  known  as  the  sawdsin 
and  her  husband  as  the  sawdsa,  and  these  persons  seem  to 
act  as  the  representatives  of  the  bridal  couple  throughout 
the  marriage  and  to  receive  all  presents  on  their  behalf. 
The  custom  is  almost  universal  among  the  Hindus,  and  it 
is  possible  that  they  are  intended  to  act  as  substitutes  and 
to  receive  any  strokes  of  evil  fortune  which  may  befall  the 
bridal  pair  at  a  season  at  which  they  are  peculiarly  liable  to 
it.  The  couple  go  round  the  sacred  post,  and  afterwards 
the  bridegroom  daubs  the  bride's  forehead  with  red  lead 
seven  times  and  covers  her  head  with  her  cloth  to  show 
that  she  has  become  a  married  woman.  After  the  wedding 
the  bridegroom's  parents  say  to  him,  "  Now  your  parents 
have  done  everything  they  could  for  you,  and  you  must 
manage  your  own  house."  The  expenditure  on  an  average 
wedding  is  about  fifteen  or  twenty  rupees.  A  widow  is 
usually  taken  in  marriage  by  her  late  husband's  younger 
brother  or  Dewar,  or  by  one  of  his  relatives.  If  she  marries 
an  outsider,  the  Dewar  realises  twelve  rupees  from  him  in 
compensation  for  her  loss.  But  if  there  is  no  Dewar  this 
sum  is  not  payable  to  her  first  husband's  elder  brother  or 
her  own   father,  because  they   could   not  have  married   her 


and  hence  arc  not  held   to  be  injured   by  a  stranger  doing 

so.      If  a  woman   is  divorced   and   another  man    wishes   to 

marry  her,  he  must  make  a  similar  payment  of  twelve  rupees 

to  the  first  husband,  together  with  a  goat   and   liquor  for 

the    penal    feast.       The    Bhainas    bury   or    burn    the    dead 

according  as  their  means  permit. 

Their   principal   deit)^  in    Bilaspur  is  Nakti  Devi  ^  or  the  s-  i<t;i'- 

'  Noseless  Goddess.'       For   her    ritual    rice   is  placed   on   a  suuersti- 

square    of   the    floor    washed    with    cowdung,    and    ghl   or  tio"s. 

preserved  butter  is  poured  on  it  and  burnt.      A  hen  is  made 

to  eat  the  rice,  and  then  its  head  is  cut  off  and  laid  on  the 

square.      The  liver  is  burnt  on  the   fire  as  an  offering  to  the 

deity  and  the  head  and   body  of  the  animal  are  then  eaten. 

After  the  death  of  a  man  a  cock  is  offered  to  Nakti  Devi 

and  a   hen  after  that  of  a   woman.      The  fowl  is  made  to 

pick  rice  first  in  the  yard  of  the  house,  then  on  the  threshold, 

and   lastly  inside  the  house.      Thakur  Deo  is  the  deity  of 

cultivation  and  is  worshipped  on  the  day  before  the  autumn 

crops  are  sown.      On  this  day  all  the  men  in  the  village  go 

to  his  shrine  taking  a  measure  of  rice  and   a  ploughshare. 

At  the  same  time  the  Baiga  or  village  priest  goes  and  bathes 

in  the  tank  and  is  afterwards  carried  to  the  assembly  on  a 

man's  shoulders.      Here  he  makes  an  offering  and  repeats   a 

charm,  and  then  kneeling  down  strikes  the  earth  seven  times 

with    the    ploughshare,    and     sows     five    handfuls    of    rice, 

sprinkling  water    over   the   seed.       After   him    the   villagers 

walk  seven  times   round   the  altar  of  the  god   in  pairs,  one 

man    turning   up    the   earth  with   the  ploughshare  and  the 

other  sowing  and  watering  the  seed.      While  this  is  going 

on    the    Baiga    sits    with    his    face    covered    with    a    piece 

of   cloth,   and   at    the    end    the   villagers   salute    the    Baiga 

and    go    home.       When    a    man    wishes    to    do    an    injury 

to    another    he    makes    an    image    of   him    with    clay   and 

daubs   it   with   vermilion   and   worships    it   with    an    offering 

of   a    goat    or    a    fowl    and    liquor.      Then    he    prays    the 

image  that  his  enemy  may  die.      Another  way  of  injuring 

an  enemy  is  to  take   rice   coloured  with  turmeric,  and   after 

1  It  is  or  was,  of  course,  a  common  application  of  the  epithet  to  the  goddess 

practice   for  a  husband  to  cut  off  his  should    he    taken    to    imply    anything 

wife's  nose  if  he  suspected  her  of  being  against    her    moral    character   is    not 

unfaithful   to  him.       But   whether   the  known. 


muttering   charms   throw   it    in    the    direction    in   which   the 
enemy  hves. 

Outsiders  are  not  usually  admitted,  but  if  a  Bhaina 
forms  a  connection  with  a  woman  of  another  tribe,  they 
will  admit  the  children  of  such  a  union,  though  not  the 
woman  herself.  For  they  say  :  '  The  seed  is  ours  and  what 
matters  the  field  on  which  it  was  sown.'  But  a  man  of  the 
Kawar  tribe  having  intimacy  with  a  Bhaina  woman  may 
be  taken  into  the  community.  He  must  wait  for  three 
or  four  months  after  the  matter  becomes  known  and  will 
beg  for  admission  and  offer  to  give  the  penalty  feast.  A 
day  is  fixed  for  this  and  invitations  are  sent  to  members  of 
the  caste.  On  the  appointed  day  the  women  of  the  tribe 
cook  rice,  pulse,  goat's  flesh  and  urad  cakes  fried  in  oil,  and 
in  the  evening  the  people  assemble  and  drink  liquor  and 
then  go  to  take  their  food.  The  candidate  for  admission 
serves  water  to  the  men  and  his  prospective  wife  to  the 
women,  both  being  then  permitted  to  take  food  with  the 
tribe.  Next  morning  the  people  come  again  and  the  woman 
is  dressed  in  a  white  cloth  with  bangles.  The  couple  stand 
together  supported  by  their  brother-in-law  and  sister-in-law 
respectively,  and  turmeric  dissolved  in  water  is  poured  over 
their  heads.  They  are  now  considered  to  be  married  and 
go  round  together  and  give  the  salutation  or  Johar  to  the 
people,  touching  the  feet  of  those  who  are  entitled  to  this 
mark  of  respect,  and  kissing  the  others.  Among  the  offences 
for  which  a  man  is  temporarily  put  out  of  caste  is  getting  the 
ear  torn  either  accidentally  or  otherwise,  being  beaten  by  a 
man  of  very  low  caste,  growing  san-hemp  {Crotalaria  junced), 
rearing  tasar  silk-worms  or  getting  maggots  in  a  wound. 
This  last  is  almost  as  serious  an  offence  as  killing  a  cow,  and, 
in  both  cases,  before  an  offender  can  be  reinstated  he  must  kill 
a  fowl  and  swallow  a  drop  or  two  of  its  blood  with  turmeric. 
Women  commonly  get  the  lobe  of  the  ear  torn  through  the 
heavy  ear-rings  which  they  wear  ;  and  in  a  squabble  another 
woman  will  often  seize  the  ear-ring  maliciously  in  order  to 
tear  the  ear.  A  woman  injured  in  this  way  is  put  out  of  caste 
for  a  year  in  Janjgir.  To  grow  turmeric  or  garlic  is  also 
an  offence  against  caste,  but  a  man  is  permitted  to  do  this  for 
his  own  use  and  not   for  sale.      A  man  who  gets  leprosy  is 


said  to  be  permanently  expelled  from  caste.  The  purifica- 
tion of  delinquents  is  conducted  by  members  of  the  Sonwani 
(gold-water)  and  Patel  (headman)  septs,  whose  business  it 
is  to  give  the  offender  water  to  drink  in  which  gold  has  been 
dipped  and  to  take  over  the  burden  of  his  sins  by  first  eating 
food  with  him.  But  others  say  that  the  Ilathi  or  elephant  sept 
is  the  highest,  and  to  its  members  are  delegated  these  duties. 
And  in  Janjgir  again  the  president  of  the  committee  gives  the 
gold-water,  and  is  hence  known  as  Sonwan  ;  and  this  office 
must  always  be  held  by  a  man  of  the  l^andar  or  monkey  sept. 

The  Bhainas  are  a  comparatively  civilised  tribe  and  have  7-  Social 
largely  adopted  Hindu  usages.  They  employ  Brahmans  to 
fix  auspicious  days  for  their  ceremonies,  though  not  to  officiate 
at  them.  They  live  principally  in  the  open  country  and  are 
engaged  in  agriculture,  though  very  iew  of  them  hold  land 
and  the  bulk  are  farm-labourers.  They  now  disclaim  any 
connection  with  the  primitive  Baigas,  who  still  prefer  the 
forests.  But  their  caste  mark,  a  symbol  which  may  be 
affixed  to  documents  in  place  of  a  signature  or  used  for  a 
brand  on  cattle,  is  a  bow,  and  this  shows  that  they  retain 
the  recollection  of  hunting  as  their  traditional  occupation. 
Like  the  Baigas,  the  tribe  have  forgotten  their  native 
dialect  and  now  speak  bad  Hindi.  They  will  eat  pork  and 
rats,  and  almost  anything  else  they  can  get,  eschewing  only 
beef  But  in  their  intercourse  with  other  castes  they  are 
absurdly  strict,  and  will  take  boiled  rice  only  from  a  Kawar, 
or  from  a  Brahman  if  it  is  cooked  in  a  brass  and  not  in  an 
earthen  vessel,  and  this  only  from  a  male  and  not  from  a 
female  Brahman  ;  while  they  will  accept  baked  cJiapdtis  and 
other  food  from  a  Gond  and  a  Rawat.  But  in  Sambalpur 
they  will  take  this  from  a  Savar  and  not  from  a  Gond. 
They  rank  below  the  Gonds,  Kawars  and  Savars  or  Saonrs. 
Women  are  tattooed  with  a  representation  of  their  sept  totem ; 
and  on  the  knees  and  ankles  they  have  some  figures  of  lines 
which  are  known  as  ghats.  These  they  say  will  enable 
them  to  climb  the  mountains  leading  to  heaven  in  the  other 
world,  while  those  who  have  not  such  marks  will  be  pierced 
with  spears  on  their  way  up  the  ascent.  It  has  already  been 
suggested  that  these  marks  may  have  given  rise  to  the  name 
of  the  Ghatyara  division  of  the  tribe. 

234  BHAMTA  or  BHAMTYA  part 

I.  Occupa-  Bhamta    or    Bhamtya.^  —  A    caste     numbering     4000 

tion.  persons    in     the    Central     Provinces,    nearly    all    of    whom 

reside  in  the  Wardha,  Nagpur  and  Chanda  Districts  of 
the  Nagpur  Division.  The  Bhamtas  are  also  found  in 
Bombay,  Berar  and  Hyderabad.  In  Bombay  they  are 
known  by  the  names  of  Uchla  or  '  Lifter '  and  Gantha- 
chor  or  '  Bundle-thief,'  "^  The  Bhamtas  were  and  still  are 
notorious  thieves,  but  many  of  the  caste  are  now  engaged 
in  the  cultivation  of  hemp,  from  which  they  make  ropes, 
mats  and  gunny-bags.  Formerly  it  was  said  in  Wardha 
that  a  Bhamta  girl  would  not  marry  unless  her  suitor  had 
been  arrested  not  less  than  fourteen  times  by  the  police, 
when  she  considered  that  he  had  qualified  as  a  man. 
The  following  description  of  their  methods  does  not 
necessarily  apply  to  the  whole  caste,  though  the  bulk  of 
them  are  believed  to  have  criminal  tendencies.  But  some 
colonies  of  Bhamtas  who  have  taken  to  the  manufacture 
of  sacking  and  gunny-bags  from  hemp-fibre  may  perhaps 
be  excepted.  They  steal  only  during  the  daytime,  and 
divide  that  part  of  the  Province  which  they  frequent  into 
regular  beats  or  ranges.  They  adopt  many  disguises. 
Even  in  their  own  cottages  one  dresses  as  a  Marwari 
Bania,  another  as  a  Gujarat  Jain,  a  third  as  a  Brahman 
and  a  fourth  as  a  Rajput.  They  keep  to  some  particular 
disguise  for  years  and  often  travel  hundreds  of  miles,  enter- 
ing and  stealing  from  the  houses  of  the  classes  of  persons 
whose  dress  they  adopt,  or  taking  service  with  a  merchant 
or  trader,  and  having  gained  their  employer's  confidence, 
seizing  an  opportunity  to  abscond  with  some  valuable 
property.  Sometimes  two  or  three  Bhamtas  visit  a  large 
fair,  and  one  of  them  dressed  as  a  Brahman  mingles  with 
the  crowd  of  bathers  and  worshippers.  The  false  Brahman 
notices  some  ornament  deposited  by  a  bather,  and  while 
himself  entering  the  water  and  repeating  sacred  verses, 
watches  his  opportunity  and  spreads  out  his  cloth  near 
the  ornament,  which  he  then  catches  with  his  toes,  and  drag- 
ging  it   with   him    to   a   distance   as   he   walks   away  buries 

'  This    article    is    mainly    compiled  ^  Bombay      Gazetteer      (Campbell), 

from    a    paper    by    Pyare    Lai    Misra,        xviii.  p.  464. 
Ethnographic  Clerk. 

II  occur  A  rioN  235 

it  in  the  sand.  The  accomplices  meanwhile  loiter  near, 
and  when  the  owner  discovers  his  loss  the  Brahman 
sympathises  with  him  and  points  out  the  accomplices  as 
likely  thieves,  thus  diverting  suspicion  from  himself.  The 
victim  follows  the  accomplices,  who  make  off,  and  the  real 
thief  meanwhile  digs  the  ornament  out  of  the  sand  and 
escapes  at  his  leisure.  Women  often  tie  their  ornaments 
in  bundles  at  such  bathing-fairs,  and  in  that  case  two 
Bhamtas  will  go  up  to  her,  one  on  each  side,  and  while 
one  distracts  her  attention  the  other  makes  off  with  the 
bundle  and  buries  it  in  the  sand.  A  Bhamta  rarely  retains 
the  stolen  property  on  his  person  while  there  is  a  chance 
of  his  being  searched,  and  is  therefore  not  detected.  They 
show  considerable  loyalty  to  one  another,  and  never  steal 
from  or  give  information  against  a  member  of  the  caste. 
If  stolen  property  is  found  in  a  Bhamta's  house,  and  it  has 
merely  been  deposited  there  for  security,  the  real  thief  comes 
forward.  An  escaped  prisoner  does  not  come  back  to  his 
friends  lest  he  should  get  them  into  trouble.  A  Bhamta 
is  never  guilty  of  house-breaking  or  gang- robbery,  and  if 
he  takes  part  in  this  offence  he  is  put  out  of  caste.  He 
does  not  steal  from  the  body  of  a  person  asleep.  He 
is,  however,  expert  at  the  theft  of  ornaments  from  the 
person.  He  never  steals  from  a  house  in  his  own  village, 
and  the  villagers  frequently  share  directly  or  indirectly  in 
his  gains.  The  Bhamtas  are  now  expert  railway  thieves.^ 
Two  of  them  will  get  into  a  carriage,  and,  engaging  the  other 
passengers  in  conversation,  find  out  where  they  are  going, 
so  as  to  know  the  time  available  for  action.  When  it 
gets  dark  and  the  travellers  go  to  sleep,  one  of  the  Bhamtas 
lies  down  on  the  floor  and  covers  himself  with  a  large  cloth. 
He  begins  feeling  some  bag  under  the  seat,  and  if  he  cannot 
open  it  with  his  hands,  takes  from  his  mouth  the  small  curved 
knife  which  all  Bhamtas  carry  concealed  between  their  gum 
and  upper  lip,  and  with  this  he  rips  up  the  seams  of  the  bag 
and  takes  out  what  he  finds  ;  or  they  exchange  bags,  accord- 
ing to  a  favourite  device  of  English  railway  thieves,  and  then 
quickly  either  leave   the   train  or  get   into  another   carriage. 

1  The  following  particulars  are  taken  from  Colonel  Portman's  Report  on  the 
Bhamtas  of  the  Deccan  (Bombay,  1887). 



If  attention  is  aroused  they  throw  the  stolen  property  out  of 
the  window,  marking  the  place  and  afterwards  going  back  to 
recover  it.  Another  device  is  to  split  open  and  pick  the 
pockets  of  people  in  a  crowd.  Besides  the  knife  they  often 
have  a  needle  and  thread  and  an  iron  nut-cutter. 

Members  of  other  castes,  as  Chhatri,  Kanjar,  Rawat  and 
others,  who  have  taken  to  stealing,  are  frequently  known  as 
Bhamtas,  but  unless  they  have  been  specially  initiated  do 
not  belong  to  the  caste.  The  Bhamtas  proper  have  two 
main  divisions,  the  Chhatri  Bhamtas,  who  are  usually  immi- 
grants from  Gujarat,  and  those  of  the  Maratha  country,  who 
are  often  known  as  Bhamtis.  The  former  have  a  dialect 
which  is  a  mixture  of  Hindi,  Marathi  and  Gujarati,  while 
the  latter  speak  the  local  form  of  Marathi.  The  sections 
of  the  Chhatri  Bhamtas  are  named  after  Rajput  septs,  as 
Badgujar,  Chauhan,  Gahlot,  Bhatti,  Kachhwaha  and  others. 
They  may  be  partly  of  Rajput  descent,  as  they  have  regular 
and  pleasing  features  and  a  fair  complexion,  and  are  well 
built  and  sturdy.  The  sections  of  the  Bhamtis  are  called 
by  Maratha  surnames,  as  Gudekar,  Kaothi,  Bailkhade, 
Satbhaia  and  others.  The  Chhatri  Bhamtas  have  northern 
customs,  and  the  Bhamtis  those  of  the  Maratha  country. 
Marriage  between  persons  of  the  same  gotra  or  surname 
is  prohibited.  The  Chhatris  avoid  marriage  between  rela- 
tions having  a  common  greatgrandparent,  but  among  the 
Bhamtis  the  custom  of  Mehunchar  is  prevalent,  by  which 
the  brother's  daughter  is  married  to  the  sister's  son.  Girls 
are  usually  married  at  ten  and  eleven  years  of  age  or  later. 
The  betrothal  and  marriage  customs  of  the  two  subcastes 
differ,  the  Chhatris  following  the  ceremonial  of  the  northern 
Districts  and  the  Bhamtis  that  of  the  Maratha  country. 
The  Chhatris  do  not  pay  a  bride-price,  but  the  Bhamtis 
usually  do.  Widow -marriage  is  allowed,  and  while  the 
Chhatris  expect  the  widow  to  marry  her  deceased  husband's 
brother,  the  Bhamtis  do  not  permit  this.  Among  both 
subdivisions  a  price  is  paid  for  the  widow  to  her  parents. 
Divorce  is  only  permitted  for  immoral  conduct  on  the  part 
of  the  wife.  A  divorced  woman  may  remarry  after  giving 
a  feast  to  the  caste  panchdyat  or  committee,  and  obtaining 
their  consent. 


The  goddess  Devi  is  the  tutelary  deity  of  the  caste,  as  3-  ^di- 
of  all  those  who  ply  a  disreputable  profession.  Animals  are  sociLr" 
sacrificed  to  her  or  let  loose  to  wander  in  her  name.  The  tustoms. 
offerings  are  appropriated  by  the  village  washerman.  In 
Bombay  the  rendezvous  of  the  Bhamtis  is  the  temple  of  Devi 
at  Konali,  in  Akalkot  State,  near  Sholapur,  and  here  the 
gangs  frequently  assemble  before  and  after  their  raids  to  ask 
the  goddess  that  luck  may  attend  them  and  to  thank  her  for 
success  obtained.^  They  worship  their  rope-making  imple- 
ments on  the  Dasahra  day.  They  both  bury  and  burn 
the  dead.  Ghosts  and  spirits  are  worshipped.  If  a  man 
takes  a  second  wife  after  the  death  of  his  first,  the  new 
wife  wears  a  putli  or  image  of  the  first  wife  on  a  piece  of 
silver  on  her  neck,  and  offers  it  the  Jioni  sacrifice  by  placing 
some  ghl  on  the  fire  before  taking  a  meal.  In  cases  of 
doubt  and  difficulty  she  often  consults  the  putli  by  speak- 
ing to  it,  while  any  chance  stir  of  the  image  due  to  the 
movement  of  her  body  is  interpreted  as  approval  or  dis- 
approval. In  the  Central  Provinces  the  Bhamtis  say  that 
they  do  not  admit  outsiders  into  the  caste,  but  this  is 
almost  certainly  untrue.  In  Bombay  they  are  said  to 
admit  all  Hindus^  except  the  very  lowest  castes,  and 
also  Muhammadans.  The  candidate  must  pass  through 
the  two  ceremonies  of  admission  into  the  caste  and  adop- 
tion into  a  particular  family.  For  the  first  he  pays  an 
admission  fee,  is  bathed  and  dressed  in  new  clothes,  and 
one  of  the  elders  drops  turmeric  and  sugar  into  his  mouth. 
A  feast  follows,  during  which  some  elders  of  the  caste  eat 
out  of  the  same  plate  with  him.  This  completes  the  admis- 
sion ceremony,  but  in  order  to  marry  in  the  caste  a  candidate 
must  also  be  adopted  into  a  particular  family.  The  Bhamta 
who  has  agreed  to  adopt  him  invites  the  caste  people  to  his 
house,  and  there  takes  the  candidate  on  his  knee  while  the 
guests  drop  turmeric  and  sugar  into  his  mouth.  The  Bham- 
tas  eat  fish  and  fowl  but  not  pork  or  beef,  and  drink  liquor. 
This  last  practice  is,  however,  frequently  made  a  caste  offence 
by  the  Bhamtis.  They  take  cooked  food  from  Brahmans 
and  Kunbis  and  water  from  Gonds.  The  keeping  of  con- 
cubines is  also  an  offence  entailing  temporary  excommuni- 

1  Portman,  loc.  cit.  ^  Bombay  Gazetteer  (Campbell),  xviii.  p.  465. 


238  BHARBHUNJA  part 

cation.  The  morality  of  the  caste  is  somewhat  low  and 
their  women  are  addicted  to  prostitution.  The  occupation 
of  the  Bhamta  is  also  looked  down  on,  and  it  is  said, 
BJidinta  ka  kdm  sub  se  iiikdiii,  or  '  The  Bhamta's  work  is 
the  worst  of  all.'  This  may  apply  either  to  his  habits  of 
stealing  or  to  the  fact  that  he  supplies  a  bier  made  of  twine 
and  bamboo  sticks  at  a  death.  In  Bombay  the  showy  dress 
of  the  Bhamta  is  proverbial.  Women  are  tattooed  before 
marriage  on  the  forehead  and  lower  lip,  and  on  other  parts 
of  the  body  for  purposes  of  adornment.  The  men  have  the 
head  shaved  for  three  inches  above  the  top  of  the  forehead 
in  front  and  an  inch  higher  behind,  and  they  wear  the  scalp- 
lock  much  thicker  than  Brahmans  do.  They  usually  have 
red  head-cloths. 

General  Bhapbhunja.^ — The  occupational  caste  of  grain-parchers. 

The  name  is  derived  from  the  Sanskrit  hJirdstra,  a  frying-pan, 
and  bhdrjaka,  one  who  fries.  The  Bharbhunjas  numbered 
3000  persons  in  191  i,  and  belong  mainly  to  the  northern 
Districts,  their  headquarters  being  in  Upper  India.  In 
Chhattlsgarh  the  place  of  the  Bharbhunjas  is  taken  by  the 
Dhuris.  Sir  H.  Elliot "  remarks  that  the  caste  are  tradition- 
ally supposed  to  be  descended  from  a  Kahar  father  and 
a  Sudra  mother,  and  they  are  probably  connected  with  the 
Kahars.  In  Saugor  they  say  that  their  ancestors  were 
Kankubja  Brahmans  who  were  ordered  to  parch  rice  at  the 
wedding  of  the  great  Rama,  and  in  consequence  of  this  one 
of  their  subcastes  is  known  as  Kanbajia.  But  Kankubja  is 
one  of  the  commonest  names  of  subcastes  among  the  people 
of  northern  India,  and  merely  indicates  that  the  bearers 
belong  to  the  tract  round  the  old  city  of  Kanauj  ;  and  there 
is  no  reason  to  suppose  that  it  means  anything  more  in  the 
case  of  the  Bharbhunjas.  Another  group  are  called  Kaitha, 
and  they  say  that  their  ancestors  were  Kayasths,  who  adopted 
the  profession  of  grain-parching.  It  is  said  that  in  Bhopal 
proper  Kayasths  will  take  food  from  Kaitha  Bharbhunjas 
and   smoke  from  their  huqqa  ;  and   it  is  noticeable  that  in 

'   This  article  contains  some  informa-       Saugor. 
tion  from  a  paper  by  Mr.  Gopal  Par-  ^  Memoirs    of  the     Races     of   the 

manand,  Deputy  Inspector  of  Schools,       N.  W.P.  vol.  i.  p.  35. 


northern  India  Mr.  Crooke  gives  ^  not  only  the  Kaitha  sub- 
caste,  but  other  groups  called  Saksena  and  Srivastab,  which 
arc  the  names  of  well-known  Kayasth  subdivisions.  It  is 
possible,  therefore,  that  the  Kaitha  group  may  really  be 
connected  with  the  Kayasths.  Other  subcastes  are  the 
Benglah,  who  are  probably  immigrants  from  Bengal  ;  and 
the  Kandu,  who  may  also  come  from  that  direction,  Kandu 
being  the  name  of  the  corresponding  caste  of  grain-parchers 
in  Bengal. 

The  social  customs  of  tlxp  Bharbhunjas  resemble  those  2.  Social 
of  Hindustani  castes  of  fairly  good  position."  They  employ  ^"^'°"'^- 
Brahmans  for  their  ceremonies,  and  the  family  priest  receives 
five  rupees  for  officiating  at  a  wedding,  three  rupees  for  a 
funeral,  one  rupee  for  a  birth,  and  four  annas  on  ordinary 
occasions.  No  price  is  paid  for  a  bride,  and  at  their 
marriages  the  greater  part  of  the  expense  falls  on  the  girl's 
father,  who  has  to  give  three  feasts  as  against  two  provided 
by  the  bridegroom's  father.  After  the  wedding  the  bride- 
groom's father  puts  on  women's  clothes  given  by  the  bride's 
father  and  dances  before  the  family.  Rose-coloured  water 
and  powder  are  sprinkled  over  the  guests  and  the  proceeding 
is  known  as  Phag,  because  it  is  considered  to  have  the  same 
significance  as  the  Holi  festival  observed  in  Phagun.  This 
is  usually  done  on  the  bank  of  a  river  or  in  some  garden 
outside  the  village.  At  the  gauna  or  going-away  ceremony 
the  bride  and  bridegroom  take  their  seats  on  two  wooden 
boards  and  then  change  places.  Divorce  and  the  remarriage 
of  widows  are  permitted.  The  union  of  a  widow  with 
her  deceased  husband's  younger  brother  is  considered  a 
suitable  match,  but  is  not  compulsory.  When  a  bachelor 
marries  a  widow,  he  first  goes  through  the  proper  ceremony 
either  with  a  stick  or  an  ear-ring,  and  is  then  united  to  the 
widow  by  the  simple  ritual  employed  for  widow  remarriage. 
A  girl  who  is  seduced  by  a  member  of  the  caste  may  be 
married  to  him  as  if  she  were  a  widow,  but  if  her  lover  is 
an  outsider  she  is  permanently  expelled  from  the  caste. 

The  Bharbhunjas  occupy  a  fairly  high    social  position,  3.  Occupa- 

^   Tribes    and    Castes,    art.     Bhar-       mainder  of  this  section  is  taken  from 
bhunja.  ]Mr.  Gopal  Parmanand's  notes. 

2  See  article  on  Kurmi.       The  re- 

240  BHARBHUNJA  part 

analogous  to  that  of  the  Barais,  Kahars  and  other  serving 
castes,  the  explanation  being  that  all  Hindus  require  the  grain 
parched  by  them  ;  this,  as  it  is  not  cooked  with  water,  may 
be  eaten  abroad,  on  a  journey  or  in  the  market-place.  This 
is  known  as  pakki  food,  and  even  Brahmans  will  take  it  from 
their  hands.  But  Mr.  Crooke  notes  ^  that  the  work  they  do, 
and  particularly  the  sweeping  up  of  dry  leaves  for  fuel,  tends 
to  lower  them  in  the  popular  estimation,  and  it  is  a  favourite 
curse  to  wish  of  an  enemy  that  he  may  some  day  come  to 
stoke  the  kiln  of  a  grain-parcher.  Of  their  occupation  Sir 
H.  Risley  states  that  "  Throughout  the  caste  the  actual  work 
of  parching  grain  is  usually  left  to  the  women.  The  process 
is  a  simple  one.  A  clay  oven  is  built,  somewhat  in  the 
shape  of  a  bee-hive,  with  ten  or  twelve  round  holes  at  the 
top.  A  fire  is  lighted  under  it  and  broken  earthen  pots 
containing  sand  are  put  on  the  holes.  The  grain  to  be 
parched  is  thrown  in  with  the  sand  and  stirred  with  a  flat 
piece  of  wood  or  a  broom  until  it  is  ready.  The  sand  and 
parched  grain  are  then  placed  in  a  sieve,  through  which  the 
former  escapes.  The  wages  of  the  parcher  are  a  proportion 
of  the  grain,  varying  from  one-eighth  to  one-fourth.  In  Bengal 
the  caste  was  spoken  of  by  early  English  travellers  under  the 
quaint  name  of  the  frymen."  "  In  the  Central  Provinces  also 
grain-parching  is  distinctly  a  woman's  industry,  only  twenty- 
two  per  cent  of  those  shown  as  working  at  it  being  men. 
There  are  two  classes  of  tradesmen,  those  who  simply  keep 
ovens  and  parch  grain  which  is  brought  to  them,  and  those 
who  keep  the  grain  and  sell  it  ready  parched.  The  rates  for 
parching  are  a  pice  a  seer  or  an  eighth  part  of  the  grain. 
Gram  and  rice,  husked  or  unhusked,  are  the  grains  usually 
parched.  When  parched,  gram  is  called  phutdna  (broken) 
and  rice  Idhi.  The  Bharbhunjas  also  prepare  sathu,  a  flour 
made  by  grinding  parched  gram  or  wheat,  which  is  a 
favourite  food  for  a  light  morning  meal,  or  for  travellers.  It 
can  be  taken  without  preparation,  being  simply  mixed  with 
water  and  a  little  salt  or  sugar.  The  following  story  is  told 
about  sathii  to  emphasise  its  convenience  in  this  respect. 
Once   two  travellers  were   about    to   take  some  food    before 

'  Ibidem. 
-   Tribes  and  Castes  of  Bengal,  art.  Kandu. 


starting  in  the  morning,  of  whom  one  had  satku  and  the  other 
dhdn  (unhusked  rice).  The  one  with  the  dhdn  knew  that  it 
would  take  him  a  long  time  to  pound,  and  then  cook  and 
eat  it,  so  he  said  to  the  other,  "  My  poor  friend,  I  perceive 
that  you  only  have  sathu,  which  will  delay  you  because  you 
must  find  water,  and  then  mix  it,  and  find  salt,  and  put  it  in, 
before  your  sat/m  can  be  ready,  while  rice — pound,  eat  and 
go.  But  if  you  like,  as  you  are  in  a  greater  hurry  than  I 
am,  I  will  change  my  rice  for  your  sathu."  The  other 
traveller  unsuspectingly  consented,  thinking  he  was  getting 
the  best  of  the  bargain,  and  while  he  was  still  looking  for 
a  mortar  in  which  to  pound  his  rice,  the  first  traveller  had 
mixed  and  eaten  the  sathu  and  proceeded  on  his  journey. 
In  the  vernacular  the  point  is  brought  out  by  the  onoma- 
topoeic character  of  the  lines,  which  cannot  be  rendered  in 
English,  The  caste  are  now  also  engaged  in  selling  tobacco 
and  sweetmeats  and  the  manufacture  of  fireworks.  They 
stoke  their  ovens  with  any  refuse  they  can  collect  from  the 
roads,  and  hence  comes  the  saying,  '  Bhdr  inen  ddlnal  '  To 
throw  into  the  oven,'  meaning  to  throw  away  something  or 
to  make  ducks  and  drakes  with  it  ;  while  Bhdr-jhokna  sig- 
nifies to  light  or  heat  the  oven,  and,  figuratively,  to  take  up 
a  mean  occupation  (Platts).  Another  proverb  quoted  by 
Mr.  Crooke  is,  ^  Bharbhunja  ka  larki  kesar  ka  tikal  or  '  The 
Bharbhunja's  slut  with  saffron  on  her  forehead,'  meaning  one 
dressed  in  borrowed  plumes.  Another  saying  is,  '  To  tiiin 
kya  abhi  tak  bhdr  bhunjte  rake,'  or  '  Have  you  been  stoking 
the  oven  all  this  time  ? ' — meaning  to  imply  that  the  person 
addressed  has  been  wasting  his  time,  because  the  profits 
from  grain-parching  are  so  small.  The  oven  of  the  Psalmist 
into  which  the  grass  was  cast  no  doubt  closely  resembled 
that  of  the  Bharbhunjas. 

VOL.  II  R 

I.  Origin 





I .  Origin  and  h'ibal  lege  fid.  5 .  Fii7ieral  ceremonies, 

z.  Tribal  subdivisions.  6.  Religion  and  magic. 

3.  Marriage.  7.  Social  life  and  customs. 

4.  Childbirth.  8.  Occupatioii. 

Bharia,  BhaPia  -  Bhumia.^  —  A  Dravidian  tribe  num- 
bering about  50,000  persons  and  residing  principally  in 
legend.  the  Jubbulpore  District,  which  contains  a  half  of  the  total 
number.  The  others  are  found  in  Chhindvvara  and  Bilaspur. 
The  proper  name  of  the  tribe  is  Bharia,  but  they  are  often 
called  Bharia-Bhumia,  because  many  of  them  hold  the  office 
of  Bhumia  or  priest  of  the  village  gods  and  of  the  lower 
castes  in  Jubbulpore,  and  the  Bharias  prefer  the  designa- 
tion of  Bhumia  as  being  the  more  respectable.  The  term 
Bhumia  or  '  Lord  of  the  soil '  is  an  alternative  for  Bhuiya, 
the  name  of  another  Dravidian  tribe,  and  no  doubt  came 
to  be  applied  to  the  office  of  village  priest  because  it  was 
held  by  members  of  this  tribe  ;  the  term  Baiga  has  a  similar 
signification  in  Mandla  and  Balaghat,  and  is  applied  to  the 
village  priest  though  he  may  not  belong  to  the  Baiga  tribe 
at  all.  The  Bharias  have  forgotten  their  original  affinities, 
and  several  stories  of  the  origin  of  the  tribe  are  based  on 
far-fetched  derivations  of  the  name.  One  of  these  is  to  the 
effect  that  Arjun,  when  matters  were  going  badly  with  the 
Pandavas  in  their  battle  against  the  Kauravas,  took  up  a 
handful  of  bJiarru  grass  and,  pressing  it,  produced  a  host  of 
men  who  fought  in  the  battle  and  became  the  ancestors  of 

^  This  article  is  compiled  fronn  notes       pore,  and  from  a  paper  by  Ram  Lai 
taken    by    Mr.    Hira    Lai,    Assistant       Sharma,  schoolmaster,  Bilaspur. 
Gazetteer    Superintendent    in    Jubbul- 



the  Bliarias.  And  there  are  others  of  the  same  historical 
value.  But  there  is  no  reason  to  doubt  that  l^haria  is  the 
contemptuous  form  of  Bhar,  as  Telia  for  Teli,  Jugia  for  Jogi, 
Kuria  for  Kori,  and  that  the  Bharias  belong  to  the  great 
Bhar  tribe  who  were  once  dominant  in  the  eastern  part  of 
the  United  Provinces,  but  are  now  at  the  bottom  of  the 
social  scale,  and  relegated  by  their  conquerors  to  the  degrad- 
ing office  of  swineherds.  The  Rajjhars,  who  appear  to  have 
formed  a  separate  caste  as  the  landowning  subdivision  of  the 
Bhars,  like  the  Raj-Gonds  among  Gonds,  are  said  to  be  the 
descendants  of  a  Raja  and  a  Bharia  woman.  The  Rajjhars 
form  a  separate  caste  in  the  Central  Provinces,  and  the 
Bharias  acknowledge  some  connection  with  them,  but  refuse 
to  take  water  from  their  hands,  as  they  consider  them  to  be 
of  impure  blood.  The  Bharias  also  give  Mahoba  or  Band- 
hogarh  as  their  former  home,  and  these  places  are  in  the 
country  of  the  Bhars.  According  to  tradition  Raja  Kama 
Deva,  a  former  king  of  Dahal,  the  classical  name  of  the 
Jubbulpore  country,  was  a  Bhar,  and  it  may  be  that  the 
immigration  of  the  Bharias  into  Jubbulpore  dates  from  his 
period,  which  is  taken  as  1040  to  1080  A.D.  While  then  it 
may  be  considered  as  fairly  certain  that  the  Bharias  are 
merely  the  Bhar  tribe  with  a  variant  of  the  name,  it  is  clear 
from  the  titles  of  their  family  groups,  which  will  shortly  be 
given,  that  they  are  an  extremely  mixed  class  and  consist 
largely  of  the  descendants  of  members  of  other  castes,  who, 
having  lost  their  own  social  position,  have  taken  refuge  among 
the  Bharias  at  the  bottom  of  the  social  scale.  Mr.  Crooke 
says  of  the  Bhars  :  ^  "  The  most  probable  supposition  is  that 
the  Bhars  were  a  Dravidian  race  closely  allied  to  the  Kols, 
Cheros  and  Seoris,  who  at  an  early  date  succumbed  to  the 
invading  Aryans.  This  is  borne  out  by  their  appearance 
and  physique,  which  closely  resemble  that  of  the  undoubted 
non-Aryan  aborigines  of  the  Vindhyan-Kaimur  plateau."  In 
the  Central  Provinces  the  Bharias  have  been  so  closely 
associated  with  the  Gonds  that  they  have  been  commonly 
considered  to  belong  to  that  tribe.  Thus  Mr.  Drysdale  says 
of  them  :  "  '  The  Bharias  were  the  wildest  of  the  wild  Gonds 

^    Tribes  and  Castes  of  the  N.  W.P.,  art.  Bhar. 
-   C.P.  Census  Report,  1881,  p.  188. 



2.  Tribal 

and  were  inveterate  dJiayd^  cutters.'  Although,  however, 
they  have  to  some  extent  intermarried  with  the  Gonds,  the 
Bharias  were  originally  quite  a  distinct  tribe,  and  would 
belong  to  the  Kolarian  or  Munda  group  but  that  they  have 
entirely  forgotten  their  own  language  and  speak  only  Hindi, 
though  with  a  peculiar  intonation  especially  noticeable  in  the 
case  of  their  women. 

The  structure  of  the  tribe  is  a  very  loose  one,  and  though 
the  Bharias  say  that  they  are  divided  into  subcastes,  there 
are  none  in  reality.  Members  of  all  castes  except  the  very 
lowest  may  become  Bharias,  and  one  Bharia  will  recognise 
another  as  a  fellow-tribesman  if  he  can  show  relationship 
to  any  person  admitted  to  occupy  that  position.  But  a 
division  is  in  process  of  formation  in  Bilaspur  based  on  the 
practice  of  eating  beef,  from  which  some  abstain,  and  in 
consequence  look  down  on  the  others  who  are  addicted  to 
it,  and  call  them  Dhur  Bharias,  the  term  dJiur  meaning  cattle. 
The  abstainers  from  beef  now  refuse  to  marry  with  the  others. 
The  tribe  is  divided  into  a  number  of  exogamous  groups, 
and  the  names  of  these  indicate  the  very  heterogeneous 
elements  of  which  it  consists.  Out  of  fifty-one  groups  reported 
not  less  than  fifteen  or  sixteen  have  names  derived  from 
other  castes  or  clans,  showing  almost  certainly  that  such 
groups  were  formed  by  a  mixed  marriage  or  the  admission 
of  a  family  of  outsiders.  Such  names  are  :  Agaria,  from 
the  Agarias  or  iron-workers  :  this  clan  worships  Loha-Sur, 
the  god  of  the  Agarias  ;  Ahirwar,  or  the  descendants  of  an 
Ahir  :  this  clan  worships  the  Ahir  gods  ;  Bamhania,  born  of 
a  Brahman  ancestor  ;  Binjhwar  or  Binjha,  perhaps  from  the 
tribe  of  that  name  ;  Chandel,  from  a  Rajput  clan  ;  Dagdoha, 
a  synonym  of  Basor  :  persons  of  this  sept  hang  a  piece  of 
bamboo  and  a  curved  knife  to  the  waist  of  the  bride  at  their 
marriages  ;  Dhurua,  born  of  a  Dhurua  Gond  ;  Kuanpa,  born 
of  an  Ahir  subcaste  of  that  name  ;  Kurka,  of  Korku 
parentage  ;  Maravi,  the  name  of  a  Gond  clan  ;  Rathor  from 
a  Rajput  clan  ;  Samarba  from  a  Chamar  ;  and  Yarkara,  the 
name  of  a  Gond  clan.  These  names  sufficiently  indicate 
the  diverse  elements  of  which  the  tribe  is  made  up.      Other 

'  Dhaya  means  the  system  of  shifting  cultivation,  which  until  prohibited  was 
so  injurious  to  the  forests. 

n  MARRIAGE  245 

group  names  with  meanings  are  :  Gambhele,  or  those  who 
scckide  tlieir  women  in  a  separate  house  during  the  menstrual 
period  ;  Kaitha,  from  the  kaith  tree  {^Fcronia  clephantiivi)  ; 
Karondiha,  from  the  karonda  plant  {Carissa  Carandas)  ; 
Magarha,  from  Diagar  a  crocodile  :  members  of  this  group 
worship  an  image  of  a  crocodile  made  with  flour  and  fried 
in  oil  ;  Sonwani,  from  sona  gold  :  members  of  this  group 
perform  the  ceremony  of  readmission  of  persons  temporarily 
put  out  of  caste  by  sprinkling  on  them  a  little  water  in 
which  gold  has  been  dipped.  Any  person  who  does  not 
know  his  clan  name  calls  himself  a  Chandel,  and  this  group, 
though  bearing  the  name  of  a  distinguished  Rajput  clan,  is 
looked  upon  as  the  lowest.  But  although  the  rule  of 
exogamy  in  marriage  is  recognised,  it  is  by  no  means 
strictly  adhered  to,  and  many  cases  are  known  in  which 
unions  have  taken  place  between  members  of  the  same 
clan.  So  long  as  people  can  recollect  a  relationship  between 
themselves,  they  do  not  permit  their  families  to  intermarry. 
But  the  memory  of  the  Bharia  does  not  extend  beyond  the 
third  generation. 

Marriages  are  adult,  and  the  proposal  comes  from  the  3.  Mar- 
boy's  father,  who  has  it  conveyed  to  the  girl's  father  through  "^^^' 
some  friend  in  his  village.  If  a  betrothal  is  arranged  the 
bride's  father  invites  the  father  and  friends  of  the  bridegroom 
to  dinner  ;  on  this  occasion  the  boy's  father  brings  some 
necklaces  of  lac  beads  and  spangles  and  presents  them 
to  the  bride's  female  relatives,  who  then  come  out  and  tie 
the  necklaces  round  his  neck  and  those  of  his  friends,  place 
the  spangles  on  their  foreheads,  and  then,  catching  hold  of 
their  cheeks,  press  and  twist  them  violently.  Some  turmeric 
powder  is  also  thrown  on  their  faces.  This  is  the  binding 
portion  of  the  betrothal  ceremony.  The  date  of  marriage 
is  fixed  by  a  Brahman,  this  being  the  only  purpose  for 
which  he  is  employed,  and  a  bride-price  varying  from  six  to 
twelve  rupees  is  paid.  On  this  occasion  the  women  draw 
caricatures  with  turmeric  or  charcoal  on  the  loin-cloth  of  the 
boy's  father,  which  they  manage  to  purloin.  The  marriage 
ceremony  follows  generally  the  Hindu  form.  The  bride- 
groom puts  on  women's  ornaments  and  carries  with  him  an 
iron   nut-cracker  or  dagger  to  keep  off  evil  spirits.      After 

246  BHARIA  part 

the  wedding,  the  niidua,  a  sort  of  burlesque  dance,  is  held. 
The  girl's  mother  gets  the  dress  of  the  boy's  father  and  puts 
it  on,  together  with  a  false  beard  and  moustaches,  and  dances, 
holding  a  wooden  ladle  in  one  hand  and  a  packet  of  ashes  in 
the  other.  Every  time  she  approaches  the  bridegroom's 
father  on  her  rounds  she  spills  some  of  the  ashes  over  him, 
and  occasionally  gives  him  a  crack  on  the  head  with  her 
ladle,  these  actions  being  accompanied  by  bursts  of  laughter 
from  the  party  and  frenzied  playing  by  the  musicians. 
When  the  party  reach  the  bridegroom's  house  on  their  return, 
his  mother  and  the  other  women  come  out  and  burn  a 
little  mustard  and  human  hair  in  a  lamp,  the  unpleasant 
smell  emitted  by  these  articles  being  considered  potent  to 
drive  away  evil  spirits.  Every  time  the  bride  leaves  her 
father's  house  she  must  weep,  and  must  cry  separately  with 
each  one  of  her  caste-sisters  when  taking  leave  of  them. 
When  she  returns  home  she  must  begin  weeping  loudly  on 
the  boundary  of  the  village,  and  continue  doing  so  until  she 
has  embraced  each  of  her  relatives  and  friends,  a  performance 
which  in  a  village  containing  a  large  number  of  Bharias  may 
take  from  three  to  six  hours.  These  tears  are,  however, 
considered  to  be  a  manifestation  of  joy,  and  the  girl  who 
cannot  produce  enough  of  them  is  often  ridiculed.  A  pro- 
spective son-in-law  who  serves  for  his  wife  is  known  as 
Gharjian.  The  work  given  him  is  always  very  heavy,  and 
the  Bharias  have  a  saying  which  compares  his  treatment 
with  that  awarded  to  an  ox  obtained  on  hire.  If  a  girl 
is  seduced  by  a  man  of  the  tribe,  she  may  be  married  to  him 
by  the  ceremony  prescribed  for  the  remarriage  of  a  widow, 
which  consists  merely  in  the  placing  of  bangles  on  the 
wrists  and  a  present  of  a  new  cloth,  together  with  a  feast 
to  the  caste-fellows.  Similarly  if  she  is  seduced  by  a  man 
of  another  caste  who  would  be  allowed  to  become  a  Bharia, 
she  can  be  married  as  a  widow  to  any  man  of  the  tribe.  A 
widow  is  expected  to  marry  her  late  husband's  younger 
brother,  but  no  compulsion  is  exercised.  If  a  bachelor 
espouses  a  widow,  he  first  goes  through  the  ceremony  of 
marriage  with  a  ring  to  which  a  twig  of  the  date-palm  is 
tied,  by  carrying  the  ring  seven  times  round  the  marriage 
post.      This  is  necessary  to  save  him  from  the  sin  of  dying 


unmarried,  as  the  union  with  a  widow  is  not  reckoned  as  a 
true  marriage.  In  Jubbulpore  divorce  is  said  to  be  allowed 
only  for  conjugal  misbehaviour,  and  a  Bharia  will  pass  over 
three  transgressions  on  his  wife's  part  before  finally  turning 
her  out  of  his  house.  A  woman  who  wishes  to  leave  her 
husband  simply  runs  away  from  him  and  lives  with  somebody 
else.  In  this  case  the  third  party  must  pay  a  goat  to  the 
husband  by  way  of  compensation  and  give  a  feast  to  the 

The  carelessness  of  the  Bharias  in  the  matter  of  child-  4.  Child- 
birth is  notorious,  and  it  is  said  that  mothers  commonly  ^^^^  " 
went 'on  working  up  to  the  moment  of  childbirth  and  were 
delivered  of  children  in  the  fields.  Now,  however,  the 
woman  lies  up  for  three  days,  and  some  ceremonies  of 
purification  are  performed.  In  Chhattlsgarh  infants  are 
branded  on  the  day  of  their  birth,  under  the  impression  that 
this  will  cause  them  to  digest  the  food  they  have  taken  in 
the  womb.  The  child  is  named  six  months  after  birth  by 
the  father's  sister,  and  its  lips  are  then  touched  with  cooked 
food  for  the  first  time. 

The  tribe  both  burn  and  bury  the  dead,  and  observe  5.  Funeral 
mourning  for  an  adult  for  ten  days,  during  which  time  they  ^lonies 
daily  put  out  a  leaf-cup  containing  food  for  the  use  of  the 
deceased.  In  the  third  year  after  the  death,  the  viaugan  or 
caste  beggar  visits  the  relatives  of  the  deceased,  and  receives 
what  they  call  one  limb  iang)^  or  half  his  belongings  ;  the 
ang  consists  of  a  loin-cloth,  a  brass  vessel  and  dish,  an  axe, 
a  scythe  and  a  wrist-ring. 

The  Bharias  call  themselves  Hindus  and  worship  the  6.  Reii- 
village  deities  of  the  locality,  and  on  the  day  of  Diwali  offer  magic" 
a  black  chicken  to  their  family  god,  who  may  be  Bura  Deo, 
Dulha  Deo  or  Karua,  the  cobra.  For  this  snake  they  pro- 
fess great  reverence,  and  say  that  he  was  actually  born  in 
a  Bharia  family.  As  he  could  not  work  in  the  fields  he  was 
usually  employed  on  errands.  One  day  he  was  sent  to  the 
house,  and  surprised  one  of  his  younger  brother's  wives,  who 
had  not  heard  him  coming,  without  her  veil.  She  reproached 
him,  and  he  retired  in  dudgeon  to  the  oven,  where  he  was 
presently  burnt  to  death  by  another  woman,  who  kindled  a 
fire  under  it  not  knowing  that  he  was  there.      So  he  has 

248  BHARIA  part 

been  deified  and  is  worshipped  by  the  tribe.  The  Bharias 
also  venerate  Bagheshwar,  the  tiger  god,  and  believe  that  no 
tiger  will  eat  a  Bharia.  On  the  Diwali  day  they  invite  the 
tiger  to  drink  some  gruel  which  they  place  ready  for  him 
behind  their  houses,  at  the  same  time  warning  the  other 
villagers  not  to  stir  out  of  doors.  In  the  morning  they 
display  the  empty  vessels  as  a  proof  that  the  tiger  has 
visited  them.  They  practise  various  magical  devices, 
believing  that  they  can  kill  a  man  by  discharging  at  him 
a  inutJi  or  handful  of  charmed  objects  such  as  lemons, 
vermilion  and  seeds  of  urad.  This  ball  will  travel  through 
the  air  and,  descending  on  the  house  of  the  person  at  whom  it 
is  aimed,  will  kill  him  outright  unless  he  can  avert  its  power 
by  stronger  magic,  and  perhaps  even  cause  it  to  recoil  in  the 
same  manner  on  the  head  of  the  sender.  They  exorcise  the 
Sudhiniyas  or  the  drinkers  of  human  blood.  A  person 
troubled  by  one  of  these  is  seated  near  the  Bharia,  who 
places  two  pots  with  their  mouths  joined  over  a  fire.  He 
recites  incantations  and  the  pots  begin  to  boil,  emitting  blood. 
This  result  is  obtained  by  placing  a  herb  in  the  pot  whose 
juice  stains  the  water  red.  The  blood-sucker  is  thus  success- 
fully exorcised.  To  drive  away  the  evil  eye  they  burn  a 
mixture  of  chillies,  salt,  human  hair  and  the  husks  of  kodon, 
which  emits  a  very  evil  smell.  Such  devices  are  practised  by 
members  of  the  tribe  who  hold  the  office  of  Bhumia  or 
village  priest.  The  Bharias  are  well-known  thieves,  and 
they  say  that  the  dark  spots  on  the  moon  are  caused  by  a 
banyan  tree,  which  God  planted  with  the  object  of  diminish- 
ing her  light  and  giving  thieves  a  chance  to  ply  their  trade. 
If  a  Bhumia  wishes  to  detect  a  thief,  he  sits  clasping  hands 
with  a  friend,  while  a  pitcher  is  supported  on  their  hands. 
An  oblation  is  offered  to  the  deity  to  guide  the  ordeal 
correctly,  and  the  names  of  suspected  persons  are  recited 
one  by  one,  the  name  at  which  the  pitcher  topples  over  being 
that  of  the  thief.  But  before  employing  this  method  of 
detection  the  Bhumia  proclaims  his  intention  of  doing  so  on 
a  certain  date,  and  in  the  meantime  places  a  heap  of  ashes  in 
some  lonely  place  and  invites  the  thief  to  deposit  the  stolen 
article  in  the  ashes  to  save  himself  from  exposure.  By 
common  custom  each  person  in  the  village  is  required  to  visit 


the  heap  and  mingle  a  handful  of  ashes  with  it,  and  not 
infrequently  the  thief,  frightened  at  the  Bhumia's  powers  of 
detection,  takes  the  stolen  article  and  buries  it  in  the  ash-heap 
where  it  is  duly  found,  the  necessity  for  resorting  to  the 
further  method  of  divination  being  thus  obviated.  Occasion- 
ally the  Bharia  in  his  character  of  a  Hindu  will  make  a  vow 
to  pay  for  a  recitation  of  the  Satya  Narayan  Katha  or  some 
other  holy  work.  But  he  understands  nothing  of  it,  and  if 
the  Brahman  employed  takes  a  longer  time  than  he  had 
bargained  for  over  the  recitation  he  becomes  extremely  bored 
and  irritated. 

The  scantiness  of  the  Bharia's  dress  is  proverbial,  and  7-  Social 
the  saying  is  '  Bharia  b/nudka,  pwdnda  langwdta,'  or  '  The  customs. 
Bharia  is  verily  a  devil,  who  only  covers  his  loins  with  a  strip 
of  cloth.'  But  lately  he  has  assumed  more  clothing.  For- 
merly an  iron  ring  carried  on  the  wrist  to  exorcise  the  evil 
spirits  was  his  only  ornament.  Women  wear  usually  only  one 
coarse  cloth  dyed  red,  spangles  on  the  forehead  and  ears,  bead 
necklaces,  and  cheap  metal  bracelets  and  anklets.  Some  now 
have  Hindu  ornaments,  but  in  common  with  other  low  castes 
they  do  not  usually  wear  a  nose-ring,  out  of  respect  to  the 
higher  castes.  Women,  though  they  work  in  the  fields,  do  not 
commonly  wear  shoes  ;  and  if  these  are  necessary  to  protect 
the  feet  from  thorns,  they  take  them  off  and  carry  them  in 
the  presence  of  an  elder  or  a  man  of  higher  caste.  They 
are  tattooed  with  various  devices,  as  a  cock,  a  crown,  a  native 
chair,  a  pitcher  stand,  a  sieve  and  a  figure  called  dhandha, 
which  consists  of  six  dots  joined  by  lines,  and  appears  to  be 
a  representation  of  a  man,  one  dot  standing  for  the  head, 
one  for  the  body,  two  for  the  arms  and  two  for  the  legs. 
This  device  is  also  used  by  other  castes,  and  they  evince 
reluctance  if  asked  to  explain  its  meaning,  so  that  it  may  be 
intended  as  a  representation  of  the  girl's  future  husband. 
The  Bharia  is  considered  very  ugly,  and  a  saying  about  him 
is  :  '  The  Bharia  came  down  from  the  hills  and  got  burnt 
by  a  cinder,  so  that  his  face  is  black.'  He  does  not  bathe 
for  months  together,  and  lives  in  a  dirt}'  hovel,  infested  by 
the  fowls  which  he  loves  to  rear.  His  food  consists  of 
coarse  grain,  often  with  boiled  leaves  as  a  vegetable,  and  he 
consumes  much  whey,  mixing  it  with   his  scanty  portion   of 


grain.  Members  of  all  except  the  lowest  castes  are  admitted 
to  the  Bharia  community  on  presentation  of  a  pagri  and 
some  money  to  the  headman,  together  with  a  feast  to  the 
caste-fellows.  The  Bharias  do  not  eat  monkeys,  beef  or 
the  leavings  of  others,  but  they  freely  consume  fowls  and 
pork.  They  are  not  considered  as  impure,  but  rank  above 
those  castes  only  whose  touch  conveys  pollution.  For  the 
slaughter  of  a  cow  the  Bilaspur  Bharias  inflict  the  severe 
punishment  of  nine  daily  feasts  to  the  caste,  or  one  for  each 
limb  of  the  cow,  the  limbs  being  held  to  consist  of  the  legs, 
ears,  horns  and  tail.  They  have  an  aversion  for  the  horse 
and  will  not  remove  its  dung.  To  account  for  this  they  tell 
a  story  to  the  effect  that  in  the  beginning  God  gave  them  a 
horse  to  ride  and  fight  upon.  But  they  did  not  know  how 
■  to  mount  the  horse  because  it  was  so  high.  The  wisest 
man  among  them  then  proposed  to  cut  notches  in  the 
side  of  the  animal  by  which  they  could  climb  up,  and 
they  did  this.  But  God,  when  he  saw  it,  was  very  angry 
with  them,  and  ordered  that  they  should  never  be  soldiers, 
but  should  be  given  a  winnowing-fan  and  broom  to  sweep 
the  grain  out  of  the  grass  and  make  their  livelihood  in 
that  way. 
8.  Occupa-  The  Bharias  are  usually  farmservants  and  field-labourers, 

and  their  services  in  these  capacities  are  in  much  request. 
They  are  hardy  and  industrious,  and  so  simple  that  it  is  an  easy 
matter  for  their  masters  to  involve  them  in  perpetual  debt, 
and  thus  to  keep  them  bound  to  service  from  generation  to 
generation.  They  have  no  understanding  of  accounts,  and 
the  saying,  '  Pay  for  the  marriage  of  a  Bharia  and  he  is 
your  bond-slave  for  ever,'  sufficiently  explains  the  methods 
adopted  by  their  employers  and  creditors. 



Origin  of  the  Bhdts. 



Bhdts  and  Chdrans. 



Lower-class  Bhdts. 


Social  status  of  the  caste. 



Social  customs. 



The  Bhdfs  business. 



Their  extortionate  practices. 



The  JasondJiis. 



The  Chdrans  as  carriers. 




Suicide  and  the  fear  of  ghosts. 
Instances  of  haunting  and  lay- 
ing ghosts. 
The  Chdrans  as  sureties. 
Suicide  as  a  means  of  revenge. 

Casting  out  spirits. 
Sulking.      Going  bankrupt. 
Blidt  songs. 

Bhat,  Rao,  Jasondhi. — The  caste  of  bards  and  genea-  i.  Origin 
legists.  In  191  I  the  Bhats  numbered  29,000  persons  in  ^^-^l^^ 
the  Central  Provinces  and  Berar,  being  distributed  over  all 
Districts  and  States,  with  a  slight  preponderance  in  large 
towns  such  as  Nagpur,  Jubbulpore  and  Amraoti.  The  name 
Bhat  is  derived  from  the  Sanskrit  Bhatta,  a  lord.  The 
origin  of  the  Bhats  has  been  discussed  in  detail  by  Sir  H. 
Risley.  Some,  no  doubt,  are  derived  from  the  Brahman 
caste  as  stated  by  Mr.  Nesfield  :  "  They  are  an  offshoot  from 
those  secularised  Brahmans  who  frequented  the  courts  of 
princes  and  the  camps  of  warriors,  recited  their  praises  in 
public,  and  kept  records  of  their  genealogies.  Such,  with- 
out much  variation,  is  the  function  of  the  Bhat  at  the  present 
day.       The  Mahabharata  speaks  of   a  band  of  bards    and  * 

eulogists  marching  in  front  of  Yudishthira  as  he  made  his 
progress  from  the  field  of  Kurukshetra  towards  Hastinapur. 
But  these  very  men  are  spoken  of  in  the  same  poem  as 
Brahmans.  Naturally  as  time  went  on  these  courtier  priests 
became  hereditary  bards,  receded  from  the  parent  stem  and 
founded  a  new  caste."      "  The  best  modern   opinion,"  Sir   H. 


252  BHAT  part 

Risley  states,^  "  seems  disposed  to  find  the  germ  of  the 
Brahman  caste  in  the  bards,  ministers  and  family  priests,  who 
were  attached  to  the  king's  household  in  Vedic  times.  The 
characteristic  profession  of  the  Bhats  has  an  ancient  and 
distinguished  history.  The  literature  of  both  Greece  and 
India  owes  the  preservation  of  its  oldest  treasures  to  the 
singers  who  recited  poems  in  the  households  of  the  chiefs, 
and  doubtless  helped  in  some  measure  to  shape  the  master- 
pieces which  they  handed  down.  Their  place  was  one  of 
marked  distinction.  In  the  days  when  writing  was  unknown, 
the  man  who  could  remember  many  verses  was  held  in  high 
honour  by  the  tribal  chief,  who  depended  upon  the  memory 
of  the  bard  for  his  personal  amusement,  for  the  record  of 
his  own  and  his  ancestors'  prowess,  and  for  the  mainten- 
ance of  the  genealogy  which  established  the  purity  of  his 
descent.  The  bard,  like  the  herald,  was  not  lightly  to  be 
slain,  and  even  Odysseus  in  the  heat  of  his  vengeance 
spares  the  aoiSo?  Phemius,  '  who  sang  among  the  wooers  of 
necessity.' "  ^ 

There  is  no  reason  to  doubt  that  the  Birm  or  Baram 
Bhats  are  an  offshoot  of  Brahmans,  their  name  being  merely 
a  corruption  of  the  term  Brahman.  But  the  caste  is  a  very 
mixed  one,  and  another  large  section,  the  Charans,  are 
almost  certainly  derived  from  Rajputs.  Malcolm  states  that 
according  to  the  fable  of  their  origin,  Mahadeo  first  created 
Bhats  to  attend  his  lion  and  bull  ;  but  these  could  not  prevent 
the  former  from  killing  the  latter,  which  was  a  source  of 
infinite  vexation  and  trouble,  as  it  compelled  Mahadeo  to 
create  new  ones.  He  therefore  formed  the  Charan,  equally 
devout  with  the  Bhat,  but  of  bolder  spirit,  and  gave  him  in 
charge  these  favourite  animals.  From  that  time  no  bull  was 
ever  destroyed  by  the  lion.^  This  fable  perhaps  indicates  that 
while  the  peaceful  Bhats  were  Brahmans,  the  more  warlike 
Charans  were  Rajputs.  It  is  also  said  that  some  Rajputs 
disguised  themselves  as  bards  to  escape  the  vengeance  of 
Parasurama.^  The  Maru  Charans  intermarry  with  Rajputs, 
and  their  name  appears  to  be  derived  from  Maru,  the  term 
for  the   Rajputana  desert,    which    is    also  found    in    Marwar. 

^    Tribes  a7id  Castes  of  Bengal,  art.  ^  Art.  Bhat. 

Brahman.  *  Rajasthan,  ii.  p.  406. 

^  Malcolm,  Central  India,  ii.  p.  132. 


Malcolm  states  '  that  when  the  Rajputs  migrated  fn^m  the 
banks  of  the  Ganges  to  Rajputana,  their  lirahman  priests 
did  not  accompany  them  in  any  numbers,  and  hence  the 
Charans  arose  and  supplied  their  place.  They  had  to  under- 
stand the  rites  of  worship,  particularly  of  Siva  and  Parvati, 
the  favourite  deities  of  the  Rajputs,  and  were  taught  to  read 
and  write.  One  class  became  merchants  and  travelled  with 
large  convoys  of  goods,  and  the  others  were  the  bards  and 
genealogists  of  the  Rajputs.  Their  songs  were  in  the  rudest 
metre,  and  their  language  was  the  local  dialect,  understood 
by  all.  All  this  evidence  shows  that  the  Charans  were  a 
class  of  Rajput  bards. 

But  besides  the  Bi/m  or  Brahman  Bhats  and  the  Rajput  3.  Lower- 
Charans  there  is  another  large  body  of  the  caste  of  mixed  ^^- 
origin,  who  serve  as  bards  of  the  lower  castes  and  are 
probably  composed  to  a  great  extent  of  members  of  these 
castes.  These  are  known  as  the  Brid-dhari  or  bes's^incf 
Bhats.  They  beg  from  such  castes  as  Lodhis,  Telis,  Kurmis, 
Ahirs  and  so  on,  each  caste  having  a  separate  section  of 
Bhats  to  serve  it ;  the  Bhats  of  each  caste  take  food  from 
the  members  of  the  caste,  but  they  also  eat  and  intermarry 
with  each  other.  Again,  there  are  Bairagi  Bhats  who  beg 
from  Bairagis,  and  keep  the  genealogies  of  the  temple-priests 
and  their  successors.  Yet  another  class  are  the  Dasaundhis 
or  Jasondhis,  who  sing  songs  in  honour  of  Devi,  play  on 
musical  instruments  and  practise  astrology.  These  rank 
below  the  cultivating  castes  and  sometimes  admit  members 
of  such  castes  who  have  taken  religious  vows. 

The  Brahman  or  Birm-Bhats  form  a  separate  subcaste,  4.  Social 
and  the  Rajputs  are  sometimes  called  Rajbhat.  These  wear  the^castl 
the  sacred  thread,  which  the  Brid-Bhats  and  Jasondhis  do 
not.  The  social  status  of  the  Bhats  appears  to  vary  greatly. 
Sir  H.  Risley  states  that  they  rank  immediately  below 
Kayasths,  and  Brahmans  will  take  water  from  their  hands. 
The  Charans  are  treated  by  the  Rajputs  with  the  greatest 
respect ; "  the  highest  ruler  rises  when  one  of  this  class  enters 
or  leaves  an  assembly,  and  the  Charan  is  invited  to  eat  first 
at  a  Rajput  feast.  He  smokes  from  the  same  huqqa  as 
Rajputs,  and   only  caste-fellows   can   do   this,  as   the   smoke 

'   Malcolm,  ii.  p.   135.  ^  Rajasthdn,  ii.  pp.  133,  134. 

2  54  BHAT  PART 

passes  through  water  on  its  way  to  the  mouth.  In  past 
times  the  Charan  acted  as  a  herald,  and  his  person  was 
inviolable.  He  was  addressed  as  Maharaj,^  and  could  sit  on 
the  Singhasan  or  Lion's  Hide,  the  ancient  term  for  a  Rajput 
throne,  as  well  as  on  the  hides  of  the  tiger,  panther  and 
black  antelope.  The  Rajputs  held  him  in  equal  estimation 
with  the  Brahman  or  perhaps  even  greater.^  This  was 
because  they  looked  to  him  to  enshrine  their  heroic  deeds  in 
his  songs  and  hand  them  down  to  posterity.  His  sarcastic 
references  to  a  defeat  in  battle  or  any  act  displaying  a  want 
of  courage  inflamed  their  passions  as  nothing  else  could  do. 
On  the  other  hand,  the  Brid-Bhats,  who  serve  the  lower  castes, 
occupy  an  inferior  position.  This  is  because  they  beg  at 
weddings  and  other  feasts,  and  accept  cooked  food  from 
members  of  the  caste  who  are  their  clients.  Such  an  act 
constitutes  an  admission  of  inferior  status,  and  as  the  Bhats 
eat  together  their  position  becomes  equivalent  to  that  of  the 
lowest  group  among  them.  Thus  if  other  Bhats  eat  with  the 
Bhats  of  Telis  or  Kalars,  who  have  taken  cooked  food  from 
their  clients,  they  are  all  in  the  position  of  having  taken  food 
from  Telis  and  Kalars,  a  thing  which  only  the  lowest  castes 
will  do.  If  the  Bhat  of  any  caste,  such  as  the  Kurmis,  keeps 
a  girl  of  that  caste,  she  can  be  admitted  into  the  community, 
which  is  therefore  of  a  very  mixed  character.  Such  a  caste 
as  the  Kurmis  will  not  even  take  water  from  the  hands  of 
the  Bhats  who  serve  them.  This  rule  applies  also  where  a 
special  section  of  the  caste  itself  act  as  bards  and  minstrels. 
Thus  the  Pardhans  are  the  bards  of  the  Gonds,  but  rank 
below  ordinary  Gonds,  who  give  them  food  and  will  not  take 
it  from  them.  And  the  Sansias,  the  bards  of  the  Jats,  and 
the  Mirasis,  who  are  employed  in  this  capacity  by  the  lower 
castes  generally,  occupy  a  very  inferior  position,  and  are 
sometimes  considered  as  impure. 
5.  Social  The  customs  of  the  Bhats  resemble  those  of  other  castes 

customs.  Q^  corresponding  status.  The  higher  Bhats  forbid  the  re- 
marriage of  widows,  and  expel  a  girl  who  becomes  pregnant 
before  marriage.  They  carry  a  dagger,  the  special  emblem 
of  the  Charans,  in  order  to  be  distinguished   from   low-class 

'  Great  King,  the  ordinary  method  of  address  to  Brahmans. 
-  RdjasthCin,  ii.  p.   175. 

II  THE  llllArS  BUSINESS  255 

lihats.  The  lihuts  generally  display  the  chaur  or  yak -tail 
whisk  and  the  chhadi  or  silver-plated  rod  on  ceremonial 
occasions,  and  they  worship  these  emblems  of  their  calling  on 
the  principal  festivals.  The  former  is  waved  over  the  bride- 
groom at  a  wedding,  and  the  latter  is  borne  before  him. 
The  Brahman  Bhats  abstain  from  flesh  of  any  l^ind  and 
liquor,  and  other  Bhats  usually  have  the  same  rules  about 
food  as  the  caste  whom  they  serve.  Brahman  Bhats  and 
Charans  alone  wear  the  sacred  thread.  The  high  status 
sometimes  assigned  to  this  division  of  the  caste  is  shown  in 
the  saying : 

Age  BrCikvimi  pichhc  Bhat 
take  picJihe  aitr  jdt^ 

or,  *  First  comes  the  Brahman,  then  the  Bhat,  and  after  them 
the  other  castes.' 

The  business  of  a  Bhat  in  former  times  is  thus  described  6.  The 
by  Forbes  :  ^    "  When  the  rainy  season  closes  and  travelling-  J^^^.'^ 

-'  .  business. 

becomes  practicable,  the  bard  sets  off  on  his  yearly  tour  from 
his  residence  in  the  Bhatwara  or  bard's  quarter  of  some  city 
or  town.  One  by  one  he  visits  each  of  the  Rajpiat  chiefs 
who  are  his  patrons,  and  from  whom  he  has  received  portions 
of  land  or  annual  grants  of  money,  timing  his  arrival,  if 
possible,  to  suit  occasions  of  marriage  or  other  domestic 
festivals.  After  he  has  received  the  usual  courtesies  he  pro- 
duces the  Wai,  a  book  written  in  his  own  crabbed  hiero- 
glyphics or  in  those  of  his  father,  which  contains  the  descent 
of  the  house  from  its  founder,  interspersed  with  many  a  verse 
or  ballad,  the  dark  sayings  contained  in  which  are  chanted 
forth  in  musical  cadence  to  a  delighted  audience,  and  are 
then  orally  interpreted  by  the  bard  with  many  an  illustrative 
anecdote  or  tale.  The  Wai,  however,  is  not  merely  a  source 
for  the  gratification  of  family  pride  or  even  of  love  of  song  ; 
it  is  also  a  record  by  which  questions  of  relationship  are 
determined  when  a  marriage  is  in  prospect,  and  disputes 
relating  to  the  division  of  ancestral  property  are  decided, 
intricate  as  these  last  necessarily  are  from  the  practice  of 
polygamy  and  the  rule  that  all  the  sons  of  a  family  are 
entitled  to  a  share.  It  is  the  duty  of  the  bard  at  each 
periodical  visit  to  register  the  births,  marriages  and  deaths 

1  Rasmala,  ii.  pp.  261,  262. 



7.  Their 

which  have  taken  place  in  the  family  since  his  last  circuit,  as 
well  as  to  chronicle  all  the  other  events  worthy  of  remark 
which  have  occurred  to  affect  the  fortunes  of  his  patron  ;  nor 
have  we  ever  heard  even  a  doubt  suggested  regarding  the 
accurate,  much  less  the  honest  fulfilment  of  this  duty  by  the 
bard.  The  manners  of  the  bardic  tribe  are  very  similar  to 
those  of  their  Rajput  clients  ;  their  dress  is  nearly  the  same, 
but  the  bard  seldom  appears  without  the  katdr  or  dagger,  a 
representation  of  which  is  scrawled  beside  his  signature,  and 
often  rudely  engraved  upon  his  monumental  stone,  in  evidence 
of  his  death  in  the  sacred  duty  of  trdga  (suicide)."  ^ 

The  Bhat  thus  fulfilled  a  most  useful  function  as  regis- 
trar of  births  and  marriages.  But  his  merits  were  soon 
eclipsed  by  the  evils  produced  by  his  custom  of  extolling 
liberal  patrons  and  satirising  those  who  gave  inadequately. 
The  desire  of  the  Rajputs  to  be  handed  down  to  fame  in  the 
Bhat's  songs  was  such  that  no  extravagance  was  spared  to 
satisfy  him.  Chand,  the  great  Rajput  bard,  sang  of  the 
marriage  of  Prithwi  Raj,  king  of  Delhi,  that  the  bride's  father 
emptied  his  coffers  in  gifts,  but  he  filled  them  with  the  praises 
of  mankind.  A  lakh  of  rupees  ^  was  given  to  the  chief  bard, 
and  this  became  a  precedent  for  similar  occasions.  "  Until 
vanity  suffers  itself  to  be  controlled,"  Colonel  Tod  wrote,^ 
"  and  the  aristocratic  Rajputs  submit  to  republican  simplicity, 
the  evils  arising  from  nuptial  profusion  will  not  cease.  Un- 
fortunately those  who  should  check  it  find  their  interest  in 
stimulating  it,  namely,  the  whole  crowd  of  vidiigtas  or 
beggars,  bards,  minstrels,  jugglers,  Brahmans,  who  assemble 
on  these  occasions,  and  pour  forth  their  epithalamiums  in 
praise  of  the  virtue  of  liberality.  The  bards  are  the  grand 
recorders  of  fame,  and   the  volume  of  precedent  is  always 

^  See  later  in  this  article. 

2  This  present  of  a  lakh  of  rupees  is 
known  as  Lakh  Pasaru,  and  it  is  not 
usually  given  in  cash  but  in  kind.  It 
is  made  up  of  grain,  land,  carriages, 
jewellery,  horses,  camels  and  elephants, 
and  varies  in  value  from  Rs.  30,000  to 
Rs.  70,000.  A  living  bard,  Mahama- 
hopadhyaya  Murar  Das,  has  received 
three  Lakh  Pasarus  from  the  Rajas  of 
Jodhpur  and  has  refused  one  from  the 
Rana  of  Udaipur  in  view  of  the  fact 

that  he  was  made  ayachaka  by  the 
Jodhpur  Raja.  Ayachaka  means  liter- 
ally 'not  a  beggar,'  and  when  a  bard 
has  once  been  made  ayachaka  he  cannot 
accept  gifts  from  any  person  other  than 
his  own  patron.  An  ayachaka  was 
formerly  known  as  polpat,  as  it  became 
his  bounden  duty  to  sing  the  praises  of 
his  patron  constantly  from  the  gate  {pol) 
of  the  donor's  fort  or  castle.  (Mr. 
HTra  Lai.) 

2  Rajasihan,  ii.  p.  548. 


Beitnose,  Cotlo.,  Derby. 
BHAT    WITH     HIS    PUTLA     OR     DOLL. 


resorted  to  by  citing  the  liberality  of  former  chiefs  ;  while 
the  dread  of  their  satire  '  shuts  the  eyes  of  the  chief  to 
consequences,  and  they  are  only  anxious  to  maintain  the 
reputation  of  their  ancestors,  though  fraught  with  future 
ruin."  Owing  t©  this  insensate  liberality  in  the  desire  to 
satisfy  the  bards  and  win  their  praises,  a  Rajput  chief  who 
had  to  marry  a  daughter  was  often  practically  ruined  ;  and 
the  desire  to  avoid  such  obligations  led  to  the  general 
practice  of  female  infanticide,  formerly  so  prevalent  in 
Rajputana.  The  importance  of  the  bards  increased  their 
voracity  ;  Mr.  Nesficld  describes  them  as  "  Rapacious  and 
conceited  mendicants,  too  proud  to  work  but  not  too  proud 
to  beg."  The  Dholis  ^  or  minstrels  were  one  of  the 
seven  great  evils  which  the  famous  king  Sidhraj  expelled 
from  Anhilwada  Patan  in  Gujarat ;  the  Dakans  or  witches 
were  another.^  Malcolm  states  that  "  They  give  praise  and 
fame  in  their  songs  to  those  who  are  liberal  to  them,  while 
they  visit  those  who  neglect  or  injure  them  with  satires 
in  which  the  victims  are  usually  reproached  with  illegiti- 
mate birth  and  meanness  of  character.  Sometimes  the 
Bhat,  if  very  seriously  offended,  fixes  an  e-^%y  of  the  person 
he  desires  to  degrade  on  a  long  pole  and  appends  to  it  a 
slipper  as  a  mark  of  disgrace.  In  such  cases  the  song  of 
the  Bhat  records  the  infamy  of  the  object  of  his  revenge. 
This  image  usually  travels  the  country  till  the  party  or  his 
friends  purchase  the  cessation  of  the  curses  and  ridicule  thus 
entailed.  It  is  not  deemed  in  these  countries  within  the 
power  of  the  prince,  much  less  any  other  person,  to  stop 
a  Bhat  or  even  punish  him  for  such  a  proceeding.  In  i  8  i  2 
Sevak  Ram  Seth,  a  banker  of  Holkar's  court,  offended  one 
of  these  Bhats,  pushing  him  rudely  out  of  the  shop  where 
the  man  had  come  to  ask  alms.  The  man  made  a  figure  ■* 
of  him  to  which  he  attached  a  slipper  and  carried  it  to 
court,  and  everywhere  sang  the  infamy  of  the  Seth.  The 
latter,  though  a  man  of  wealth  and  influence,  could  not 
prevent  him,  but  obstinately  refused  to  purchase  his  forbear- 
ance. His  friends  after  some  months  subscribed  Rs.  80 
and  the  Bhat  discontinued   his  execrations,  but  said  it  was 

1  Viserva,  lit.  poison.  ^   Rajasthdn,  ii.  p.   1S4. 

2  From  dhol,  a  drum.  *  Lit.  putli  or  doll. 
VOL.  II  S 

258  BHAT  part 

too  late,  as  his  curses  had  taken  effect  ;  and  the  superstitious 
Hindus  ascribe  the  ruin  of  the  banker,  which  took  place  some 
years  afterwards,  to  this  unfortunate  event."  The  loquacity 
and  importunity  of  the  Bhats  are  shown  in  the  saying,  '  Four 
Bhats  make  a  crowd  '  ;  and  their  insincerity  in  the  proverb 
quoted  by  Mr.  Crooke,  "  The  bard,  the  innkeeper  and  the 
harlot  have  no  heart  ;  they  are  polite  when  customers 
arrive,  but  neglect  those  leaving  (after  they  have  paid) "  ^ 
The  Bhat  women  are  as  bold,  voluble  and  ready  in  retort  as 
the  men.  When  a  Bhat  woman  passes  a  male  caste- 
fellow  on  the  road,  it  is  the  latter  who  raises  a  piece  of 
cloth  to  his  face  till  the  woman  is  out  of  sight." 
8_  The  Some  of  the  lower  classes  of  Bhats  have  become  religious 

jasondhis.  mendicants  and  musicians,  and  perform  ceremonial  functions. 
Thus  the  Jasondhis,  who  are  considered  a  class  of  Bhats, 
take  their  name  from  the  jas  or  hymns  sung  in  praise  of 
Devi.  They  are  divided  into  various  sections,  as  the  Nakib 
or  flag-bearers  in  a  procession,  the  Nazir  or  ushers  who 
introduced  visitors  to  the  Raja,  the  Nagaria  or  players  on 
kettle-drums,  the  Karaola  who  pour  sesamum  oil  on  their 
clothes  and  beg,  and  the  Panda,  who  serve  as  priests  of 
Devi,  and  beg  carrying  an  image  of  the  goddess  in  their 
hands.  There  is  also  a  section  of  Muhammadan  Bhats 
who  serve  as  bards  and  genealogists  for  Muhammadan 
castes.  Some  Bhats,  having  the  rare  and  needful  qualifica- 
tion of  literacy  so  that  they  can  read  the  old  Sanskrit 
medical  works,  have,  like  a  number  of  Brahmans,  taken  to 
the  practice  of  medicine  and  are  known  as  Kaviraj. 
9.  The  As   already  stated,    the  persons  of  the   Charans  in  the 

Charansas  capacity  of  bard  and  herald  were  sacred,  and  they  travelled 

carriers.  '^  ''  ^ 

from  court  to  court  without  fear  of  molestation  from  robbers 
or  enemies.  It  seems  likely  that  the  Charans  may  have 
united  the  breeding  of  cattle  to  their  calling  of  bard  ;  but 
in  any  case  the  advantage  derived  from  their  sanctity  was 
so  important  that  they  gradually  became  the  chief  carriers 
and  traders  of  Rajputana  and  the  adjoining  tracts.  They 
further,  in  virtue  of  their  holy  character,  enjoyed  a  partial 
exemption  from  the  perpetual  and  harassing  imposts  levied 

1    Tribes  and  Castes,  art.  Bhat. 
2  Ibidem^     Veiling  the  face  is  a  sign  of  modesty. 


by  evciy  petty  State  on  produce  entering  its  territory  ; 
and  the  combination  of  advantages  thus  obtained  was  such 
as  to  give  them  almost  a  monopoly  in  trade.  They  carried 
merchandise  on  large  droves  of  bullocks  all  over'  Rajputana 
and  the  adjoining  countries  ;  and  in  course  of  time  the 
carriers  restricted  themselves  to  their  new  profession,  splitting 
off  from  the  Charans  and  forming  the  caste  of  Banjaras. 

But  the  mere  reverence  for  their  calling  would  not  have  10.  Suicide 
sufficed    for  a    permanent   safeguard    to    the    Charans   from  !^"'^'  "i^ 

'■  '^  fear  of 

destitute  and  unscrupulous  robbers.  They  preserved  it  by  ghosts, 
the  customs  of  CJiaiidi  or  Trdga  and  Dharna.  These 
consisted  in  their  readiness  to  mutilate,  starve  or  kill  them- 
selves rather  than  give  up  property  entrusted  to  their  care ; 
and  it  was  a  general  belief  that  their  ghosts  would  then 
haunt  the  persons  whose  ill  deeds  had  forced  them  to  take 
their  own  lives.  It  seems  likely  that  this  belief  in  the 
power  of  a  suicide  or  murdered  man  to  avenge  himself  by 
haunting  any  persons  who  had  injured  him  or  been  re- 
sponsible for  his  death  may  have  had  a  somewhat  wide 
prevalence  and  been  partly  accountable  for  the  reprobation 
attaching  in  early  times  to  the  murderer  and  the  act  of 
self-slaughter.  The  haunted  murderer  would  be  impure 
and  would  bring  ill-fortune  on  all  who  had  to  do  with  him, 
while  the  injury  which  a  suicide  would  inflict  on  his  relatives 
in  haunting  them  would  cause  this  act  to  be  regarded  as  a 
sin  against  one's  family  and  tribe.  Even  the  ordinary  fear 
of  the  ghosts  of  people  who  die  in  the  natural  course,  and 
especially  of  those  who  are  killed  by  accident,  is  so  strong 
that  a  large  part  of  the  funeral  rites  is  devoted  to  placating 
and  laying  the  ghost  of  the  dead  man  ;  and  in  India  the 
period  of  observance  of  mourning  for  the  dead  is  perhaps 
in  reality  that  time  during  which  the  spirit  of  the  dead  man 
is  supposed  to  haunt  his  old  abode  and  render  the  survivors 
of  his  family  impure.  It  was  this  fear  of  ghosts  on  which 
the  Charans  relied,  nor  did  they  hesitate  a  moment  to 
sacrifice  their  lives  in  defence  of  any  obligation  they  had 
undertaken  or  of  property  committed  to  their  care.  When 
plunderers  carried  off  any  cattle  belonging  to  the  Charans, 
the  whole  community  would  proceed  to  the  spot  where  the 
robbers    resided  ;    and    in    failure    of  having  their  property 

26o  BHAT  PART 

restored  would  cut  off  the  heads  of  several  of  their  old  men 
and  women.  Frequent  instances  occurred  of  a  man  dressing 
himself  in  cotton-quilted  cloths  steeped  in  oil  which  he  set 
on  fire  at  the  bottom,  and  thus  danced  against  the  person 
against  whom  ti'dga  was  performed  until  the  miserable  creature 
dropped  down  and  was  burnt  to  ashes.  On  one  occasion 
a  Cutch  chieftain,  attempting  to  escape  with  his  wife  and 
child  from  a  village,  was  overtaken  by  his  enemy  when  about 
to  leap  a  precipice  ;  immediately  turning  he  cut  off  his  wife's 
head  with  his  scimitar  and,  flourishing  his  reeking  blade  in 
the  face  of  his  pursuer,  denounced  against  him  the  curse  of 
the  trdga  which  he  had  so  fearfully  performed.^  In  this 
case  it  was  supposed  that  the  wife's  ghost  would  haunt  the 
enemy  who  had  driven  the  husband  to  kill  her. 
II.  In-  The  following  account  in  \hQ.  Rdsnidla'^  is  an  instance  of 

stances  of    g^icidc  and  of  the  actual  haunting-  by  the  ghost :  A  Charan 

haunting  fc>      /  fc> 

and  laying  asserted  a  claim  against  the  chief  of  Siela  in  Kathiawar, 
ghosts.  which  the  latter  refused  to  liquidate.  The  bard  thereupon, 
taking  forty  of  his  caste  with  him,  went  to  Siela  with  the 
intention  of  sitting  Dkarna  at  the  chief's  door  and  preventing 
any  one  from  coming  out  or  going  in  until  the  claim  should 
be  discharged.  However,  as  they  approached  the  town,  the 
chief,  becoming  aware  of  their  intention,  caused  the  gates  to 
be  closed.  The  bards  remained  outside  and  for  three  days 
abstained  from  food  ;  on  the  fourth  day  they  proceeded  to 
perform  tj'dga  as  follows  :  some  hacked  their  own  arms ; 
others  decapitated  three  old  women  of  the  party  and  hung 
their  heads  up  at  the  gate  as  a  garland  ;  certain  of  the 
women  cut  off  their  own  breasts.  The  bards  also  pierced  the 
throats  of  four  of  their  old  men  with  spikes,  and  they  took 
two  young  girls  by  the  heels,  and  dashed  out  their  brains 
against  the  town  gate.  The  Charan  to  whom  the  money 
was  due  dressed  himself  in  clothes  wadded  with  cotton 
which  he  steeped  in  oil  and  then  set  on  fire.  He  thus 
burned  himself  to  death.  But  as  he  died  he  cried  out, 
"  I  am  now  dying  ;  but  I  will  become  a  headless  ghost 
{Kuvts)  in  the  palace,  and  will  take  the  chief's  life  and 
cut  off  his  posterity."  After  this  sacrifice  the  rest  of  the 
bards  returned  home. 

'  Postans,  Cutch,  p.  172.  2  YqI.  ii.  pp.  392-394. 


On  the  third  day  after  the  Charan's  death  his  Bhut 
(ghost)  threw  the  Rani  downstairs  so  that  she  was  very 
much  injured.  Many  other  persons  also  beheld  the  head- 
less phantom  in  the  palace.  At  last  he  entered  the  chiefs 
head  and  set  him  trembling.  At  night  he  would  throw 
stones  at  the  palace,  and  he  killed  a  female  servant  outright. 
At  length,  in  consequence  of  the  various  acts  of  oppression 
which  he  committed,  none  dared  to  approach  the  chief's 
mansion  even  in  broad  daylight.  In  order  to  exorcise  the 
Bhut,  Jogis,  Fakirs  and  Brahmans  were  sent  for  from 
many  different  places  ;  but  whoever  attempted  the  cure 
was  immediately  assailed  by  the  Bhut  in  the  chief's  body, 
and  that  so  furiously  that  the  exorcist's  courage  failed  him. 
The  Bhut  would  also  cause  the  chief  to  tear  the  flesh  off 
his  own  arms  with  his  teeth.  Besides  this,  four  or  five  persons 
died  of  injuries  received  from  the  Bhut ;  but  nobody  had 
the  power  to  expel  him.  At  length  a  foreign  Jyotishi 
(astrologer)  came  who  had  a  great  reputation  for  charms 
and  magic,  and  the  chief  sent  for  him  and  paid  him 
honour.  First  he  tied  all  round  the  house  threads  which  he 
had  charged  with  a  charm  ;  then  he  sprinkled  charmed  milk 
and  water  all  round  ;  then  he  drove  a  charmed  iron  nail  into 
the  ground  at  each  corner  of  the  mansion,  and  two  at  the 
door.  He  purified  the  house  and  continued  his  charms  and 
incantations  for  forty-one  days,  every  day  making  sacrifices  at 
the  cemetery  to  the  Bhut's  spirit.  The  Joshi  lived  in  a  room 
securely  fastened  up  ;  but  people  say  that  while  he  was  mutter- 
ing his  charms  stones  would  fall  and  strike  the  windows. 
Finally  the  Joshi  brought  the  chief,  who  had  been  living  in 
a  separate  room,  and  tried  to  exorcise  the  spirit.  The 
patient  began  to  be  very  violent,  but  the  Joshi  and  his  people 
spared  no  pains  in  thrashing  him  until  they  had  rendered 
him  quite  docile.  A  sacrificial  fire-pit  was  made  and  a  lemon 
placed  between  it  and  the  chief.  The  Joshi  commanded 
the  Bhut  to  enter  the  lime.  The  possessed,  however,  said, 
*  Who  are  you  ;  if  one  of  your  Deos  (gods)  were  to  come,  I 
would  not  quit  this  person.'  Thus  they  went  on  from 
morning  till  noon.  At  last  they  came  outside,  and,  burning 
various  kinds  of  incense  and  sprinkling  many  charms,  the 
Bhut  was  got  out  into  the  lemon.      When  the  lemon  began 

262  BHAT  part 

to  jump  about,  the  whole  of  the  spectators  praised  the 
Joshi,  crying  out :  '  The  Bhut  has  gone  into  the  lemon  ! 
Tlie  Bhut  has  gone  into  the  lemon  ! '  The  possessed 
person  himself,  when  he  saw  the  lemon  hopping  about, 
was  perfectly  satisfied  that  the  Bhut  had  left  his  body 
and  gone  out  into  the  lemon.  The  Joshi  then  drove  the 
lemon  outside  the  city,  followed  by  drummers  and  trumpeters  ; 
if  the  lemon  left  the  road,  he  would  touch  it  with  his  stick 
and  put  it  into  the  right  way  again.  On  the  track  they 
sprinkled  mustard  and  salt  and  finally  buried  the  lemon  in  a  pit 
seven  cubits  deep,  throwing  into  the  hole  above  it  mustard 
and  salt,  and  over  these  dust  and  stones,  and  filling  in  the 
space  between  the  stones  with  lead.  At  each  corner,  too,  the 
Joshi  drove  in  an  iron  nail,  two  feet  long,  which  he  had 
previously  charmed.  The  lemon  buried,  the  people  returned 
home,  and  not  one  of  them  ever  saw  the  Bhut  thereafter. 
According  to  the  recorder  of  the  tale,  the  cure  was  effected 
by  putting  quicksilver  into  the  lemon.  When  a  man  is 
attacked  with  fever  or  becomes  speechless  or  appears  to  have 
lockjaw,  his  friends  conclude  from  these  indications  that  he 
is  possessed  by  a  Bhut. 

In  another  case  some  Bhats  had  been  put  in  charge,  by 
the  chief  of  a  small  State,  of  a  village  which  was  coveted 
by  a  neighbouring  prince,  the  Rana  of  Danta.  The  latter 
sent  for  the  Bhats  and  asked  them  to  guard  one  or  two  of 
his  villages,  and  having  obtained  their  absence  by  this 
pretext  he  raided  their  village,  carrying  off  hostages  and 
cattle.  When  the  Bhats  got  back  they  collected  to  the 
number  of  a  hundred  and  began  to  perform  DJiarna  against 
the  Rana.  They  set  out  from  their  village,  and  at  every 
two  miles  as  they  advanced  they  burned  a  man,  so  that  by 
the  time  they  got  to  the  Rana's  territory  seven  or  eight  men 
had  been  burnt.  They  were  then  pacified  by  his  people 
and  induced  to  go  back.  The  Rana  offered  them  presents, 
but  they  refused  to  accept  them,  as  they  said  the  guilt  of  the 
death  of  their  fellows  who  had  been  burned  would  thereby 
be  removed  from  the  Rana.  The  Rana  lost  all  the  seven 
sons  born  to  him  and  died  childless,  and  it  was  generally 
held  to  be  on  account  of  this  sin.^ 

^   Kdsindla,  ii.  pp.   143,   144. 

as  sureties. 


Such  was  the  certainty  attaching  to  the  Charan's  12.  The 
readiness  to  forfeit  his  Hfe  rather  than  prove  false  to  a  trust, 
and  the  fear  entertained  of  the  offence  of  causing  him  to  do  so 
and  being  haunted  by  his  ghost,  that  his  security  was  eagerly 
coveted  in  every  kind  of  transaction.  "  No  traveller  could 
journey  unattended  by  these  guards,  who  for  a  small  sum 
were  satisfied  to  conduct  him  in  safety.^  The  guards, 
called  Valavas,  were  never  backward  in  inflicting  the  most 
grievous  wounds  and  even  causing  the  death  of  their  old 
men  and  women  if  the  robbers  persisted  in  plundering  those 
under  their  protection  ;  but  this  seldom  happened,  as  the 
wildest  Koli,  Kathi  or  Rajput  held  the  person  of  a  Charan 
sacred.  Besides  becoming  safeguards  to  travellers  and 
goods,  they  used  to  stand  security  to  the  amount  of  many 
lakhs  of  rupees.  When  rents  and  property  were  concerned, 
the  Rajputs  preferred  a  Charan's  bond  to  that  of  the  wealthiest 
banker.  They  also  gave  security  for  good  behaviour, 
called  c/idlu  zdviin,  and  for  personal  attendance  in  court 
called  Jidzar  zdviin.  The  ordinary  trdga  went  no  farther 
than  a  cut  on  the  arm  with  the  katdr  or  crease  ;  the  forearms 
of  those  who  were  in  the  habit  of  becoming  security  had 
generally  several  cuts  from  the  elbow  downwards.  The 
Charans,  both  men  and  women,  wounded  themselves,  com- 
mitted suicide  and  murdered  their  relations  with  the  most 
complete  self-devotion.  In  1 8 1 2  the  Marathas  brought  a 
body  of  troops  to  impose  a  payment  on  the  village  of 
Panchpipla.^  The  Charans  resisted  the  demand,  but  finding 
the  Marathas  determined  to  carry  their  point,  after  a  remon- 
strance against  paying  any  kind  of  revenue  as  being  contrary 
to  their  occupation  and  principles,  they  at  last  cut  the  throats 
of  ten  young  children  and  threw  them  at  the  feet  of  the 
Marathas,  exclaiming,  '  These  are  our  riches  and  the  only 
payment  we  can  make.'  The  Charans  were  immediately 
seized  and  confined  in  irons  at  Jambusar." 

As  was  the  case  with  the  Bhat  and  the  Brahman,  the 
source  of  the  Charan's  power  lay  in  the  widespread  fear  that 
a  Charan's  blood  brought  ruin  on  him  who  caused  the  blood 
to    be    spilt.      It    was    also    sometimes    considered    that    the 

'   Bombay  Gazetteer,  Hindus  of  Gujarat,  Mr.  Bhimbhai  Kirparam,  pp.  217,  219. 

-   In  Broach. 

as  a  means 
of  revenge. 

264  BHAT  PART 

Charan  was  possessed  by  his  deity,  and  the  caste  were  known 
as  Deoputra  or  sons  of  God,  the  favourite  dwelHng  of  the 
guardian  spirit. 
13.  Suicide  Such  a  beh'cf  enhanced  the  guilt  attaching  to  the  act  of 

causing  or  being  responsible  for  a  Charan's  death.  Suicide 
from  motives  of  revenge  has  been  practised  in  other  countries. 
"  Another  common  form  of  suicide  which  is  admired  as 
heroic  in  China  is  that  committed  for  the  purpose  of  taking 
revenge  upon  an  enemy  who  is  otherwise  out  of  reach — 
according  to  Chinese  ideas  a  most  effective  mode  of  revenge, 
not  only  because  the  law  throws  the  responsibility  of  the 
deed  on  him  who  occasioned  it,  but  also  because  the  dis- 
embodied soul  is  supposed  to  be  better  able  than  the  living 
man  to  persecute  the  enemy."  ^  Similarly,  among  the  Hos 
or  Mundas  the  suicide  of  young  married  women  is  or  was 
extremely  common,  and  the  usual  motive  was  that  the  girl, 
being  unhappy  in  her  husband's  house,  jumped  down  a  well 
or  otherwise  made  away  with  herself  in  the  belief  that  she 
would  take  revenge  on  his  family  by  haunting  them  after 
her  death.  The  treatment  of  the  suicide's  body  was  some- 
times directed  to  prevent  his  spirit  from  causing  trouble. 
"  According  to  Jewish  custom  persons  who  had  killed  them- 
selves were  left  unburied  till  sunset,  perhaps  for  fear  lest  the 
spirit  of  the  deceased  otherwise  might  find  its  way  back 
to  the  old  home."  ^  At  Athens  the  right  hand  of  a  person 
who  had  taken  his  own  life  was  struck  off  and  buried  apart 
from  the  rest  of  the  body,  evidently  in  order  to  make  him 
harmless  after  death.^  Similarly,  in  England  suicides  were 
buried  with  a  spike  through  the  chest  to  prevent  their  spirits 
from  rising,  and  at  cross-roads,  so  that  the  ghost  might  not 
be  able  to  find  its  way  home.  This  fear  appears  to  have 
partly  underlain  the  idea  that  suicide  was  a  crime  or  an 
offence  against  society  and  the  state,  though,  as  shown  by 
Dr.  Westermarck,  the  reprobation  attaching  to  it  was  far 
from  universal  ;  while  in  the  cultured  communities  of  ancient 
Greece  and  Rome,  and  among  such  military  peoples  as  the 
Japanese  suicide  was  considered  at  all  times  a  legitimate 
and,  on  occasion,  a  highly  meritorious  and  praiseworthy  act. 

1   Wesleimarck,  Origin  and  Development  of  the  Moral  Ideas,  ii.  p.  242. 
^  Westermarck,  ibidem,  p.  246.  ^  Westermarck,  ibidem,  p.  248. 

II  DHARNA  265 

That  condition  of  nnind  which  leads  to  the  taking  of 
one's  own  Hfe  from  motives  of  revenge  is  perhaps  a  fruit 
of  ignorance  and  solitude.  The  mind  becomes  distorted, 
and  the  sufferer  attributes  the  unhappiness  really  caused  by 
accident  or  his  own  faults  or  defects  to  the  persecution  of  a 
malignant  fate  or  the  ill-will  of  his  neighbours  and  associates. 
And  long  brooding  over  his  wrongs  eventuates  in  his  taking 
the  extreme  step.  The  crime  known  as  running  amok 
appears  to  be  the  outcome  of  a  similar  state  of  mind.  Here 
too  the  criminal  considers  his  wrongs  or  misery  as  the  result 
of  injury  or  unjust  treatment  from  his  fellow-men,  and,  care- 
less of  his  own  life,  determines  to  be  revenged  on  them. 
Such  hatred  of  one's  kind  is  cured  by  education,  leading  to 
a  truer  appreciation  of  the  circumstances  and  environment 
which  determine  the  course  of  life,  and  by  the  more  cheerful 
temper  engendered  by  social  intercourse.  And  these  crimes 
of  vengeance  tend  to  die  out  with  the  advance  of  civilisation. 

Analogous  to  the  custom  of  trdga  was  that  of  Dharjia,  14- 
which  was  frequently  and  generally  resorted  to  for  the 
redress  of  wrongs  and  offences  at  a  time  w^hen  the  law  made 
little  provision  for  either.  The  ordinary  method  of  Dharfta 
was  to  sit  starving  oneself  in  front  of  the  door  of  the  person 
from  whom  redress  was  sought  until  he  gave  it  from  fear  of 
causing  the  death  of  the  suppliant  and  being  haunted  by  his 
ghost.  It  was,  naturally,  useless  unless  the  person  seeking 
redress  was  prepared  to  go  to  extremes,  and  has  some 
analogy  to  the  modern  hunger-strike  with  the  object  of 
getting  out  of  jail.  Another  common  device  was  to  thrust 
a  spear-blade  through  both  cheeks,  and  in  this  state  to  dance 
before  the  person  against  whom  Dharna  was  practised.  The 
pain  had  to  be  borne  without  a  sign  of  suffering,  which,  if 
displayed,  would  destroy  its  efficacy.  Or  a  creditor  would 
proceed  to  the  door  of  his  debtor  and  demand  payment, 
and  if  not  appeased  would  stand  up  in  his  presence  with  an 
enormous  weight  upon  his  head,  which  he  had  brought  with 
him  for  the  purpose,  swearing  never  to  alter  his  position 
until  satisfaction  was  given,  and  denouncing  at  the  same 
time  the  most  horrible  execrations  on  his  debtor,  should  he 
suffer  him  to  expire  in  that  situation.  This  seldom  failed 
to    produce    the   desired  effect,   but  should   he  actually  die 

266  BHAT  PART 

while  in  Dharna,  the  debtor's  house  was  razed  to  the  earth 
and  he  and  his  family  sold  for  the  satisfaction  of  the 
creditor's  heirs.  Another  and  more  desperate  form  of 
Dkarna,  only  occasionally  resorted  to,  was  to  erect  a  large 
pile  of  wood  before  the  house  of  the  debtor,  and  after  the 
customary  application  for  payment  had  been  refused  the 
creditor  tied  on  the  top  of  the  pile  a  cow  or  a  calf,  or  very 
frequently  an  old  woman,  generally  his  mother  or  other 
relation,  swearing  at  the  same  time  to  set  fire  to  it  if 
satisfaction  was  not  instantly  given.  All  the  time  the 
old  woman  denounced  the  bitterest  curses,  threatening  to 
persecute  the  wretched  debtor  both  here  and  hereafter.^ 

The  word  dharna  means  '  to  place  or  lay  on,'  and  hence 
'  a  pledge.'  Mr.  Hira  Lai  suggests  that  the  standing  with 
a  weight  on  the  head  may  have  been  the  original  form  of 
the  penance,  from  which  the  other  and  severer  methods  were 
subsequently  derived.  Another  custom  known  as  dharna 
is  that  of  a  suppliant  placing  a  stone  on  the  shrine  of 
a  god  or  tomb  of  a  saint.  He  makes  his  request  and, 
laying  the  stone  on  the  shrine,  says,  "  Here  I  place  this 
stone  until  you  fulfil  my  prayer  ;  if  I  do  not  remove  it, 
the  shame  is  on  you."  If  the  prayer  is  afterwards  fulfilled, 
he  takes  away  the  stone  and  offers  a  cocoanut.  It  seems 
clear  that  the  underlying  idea  of  this  custom  is  the  same 
as  that  of  standing  with  a  stone  on  the  head  as  described 
above,  but  it  is  difficult  to  say  which  was  the  earlier  or 
original  form. 

As  a  general  rule,  if  the  guilt  of  having  caused  a  suicide 
was  at  a  man's  door,  he  should  expiate  it  by  going  to  the 
Ganges  to  bathe.  When  a  man  was  haunted  by  the  ghost 
of  any  one  whom  he  had  wronged,  whether  such  a  person 
had  committed  suicide  or  simply  died  of  grief  at  being 
unable  to  obtain  redress,  it  was  said  of  him  BraJiui  laga,  or 
that  Brahma  had  possessed  him.  The  spirit  of  a  Brahman 
boy,  who  has  died  unmarried,  is  also  accustomed  to  haunt  any 
person  who  walks  over  his  grave  in  an  impure  condition  or 
otherwise  defiles  it,  and  when  a  man  is  haunted  in  such  a 
manner  it  is  called  Brahvi  laga.      Then  an  exorcist  is  called, 

*  The  above  account  of  Dharna  is  taken  from  Colonel  Tone's  Letter  on  the 
Marathas  (India  Office  Tracts). 


who  sprinkles  water  over  the  possessed  man,  and  this  burns 
the  Brahm  Deo  or  spirit  inside  him  as  if  it  were  burning  oil. 
The  spirit  cries  out,  and  the  exorcist  orders  him  to  leave  the 
man.  Then  the  spirit  states  how  he  has  been  injured  by 
the  man,  and  refuses  to  leave  him.  The  exorcist  asks  him 
what  he  requires  on  condition  of  leaving  the  man,  and  he  asks 
for  some  good  food  or  something  else,  and  is  given  it.  The 
exorcist  takes  a  nail  and  goes  to  a  plpal  tree  and  orders  the 
Brahm  Deo  to  go  into  the  tree.  Brahm  Deo  obeys,  and  the 
exorcist  drives  the  nail  into  the  tree  and  the  spirit  remains 
imprisoned  there  until  somebody  takes  the  nail  out,  when  he 
will  come  out  again  and  haunt  him.  The  Hindus  think  that 
the  god  Brahma  lives  in  the  roots  of  the  pipal  tree,  Siva  in 
its  branches,  and  Vishnu  in  the  choti  or  scalp-knot,  that  is 
the  topmost  foliage. 

Another   and    mild   form   of  Dharna  is  that   known   as  16.  Suik- 
KJidtpdti.      When  a  woman   is  angry  with  her  husband   on  ^^^^^^ 
account  of  his  having  refused  her  some  request,  she  will  put  bankrupt. 
her  bed  in  a  corner  of  the  room  and  go  and  lie  on  it,  turning 
her   face   to  the  wall,  and   remain   so,  not  answering  when 
spoken  to  nor  taking  food.      The  term    Khatpati    signifies 
keeping   to  one  side  of  the  bed,  and   there  she  will  remain 
until  her  husband  accedes  to  her  request,  unless  indeed  he 
should  decide  to  beat  her  instead.      This  is  merely  an  exag- 
gerated form  of  the  familiar  display  of  temper  known   as 
sulking.      It   is   interesting  to  note   the    use  of  the    phrase 
turning  one's  face  to  the  wall,  with  something  of  the  mean- 
ing attached  to  it  in  the  Bible. 

A  custom  similar  to  that  of  Dhariia  was  called  Diwdla 
nikdlna  or  going  bankrupt.  When  a  merchant  had  had 
heavy  losses  and  could  not  meet  his  liabilities,  he  would 
place  the  lock  of  his  door  outside,  reversing  it,  and  sit  in 
the  veranda  with  a  piece  of  sackcloth  over  him.  Or  he 
wrapped  round  him  the  floor-carpet  of  his  room.  When  he 
had  displayed  these  signs  of  ruin  and  self-abasement  his 
creditors  would  not  sue  him,  but  he  would  never  be  able  to 
borrow  money  again. 

In    conclusion   a   few  specimens  of  Bhat   songs   may  be  17.  Bhat 
given.      The    following  is   an   account   of  the    last    king    of  ^°"ss- 
Nagpur,  Raghuji  III.,  commonly  known  as  Baji  Rao  : 

268  BHAT  PART 

They  made  a  picture  of  Baji  Rao  ; 

Baji  Rao  was  the  finest  king  to  see  ; 

The  Brahmans  told  hes  about  him, 

They  sent  a  letter  from  Nagpur  to  Calcutta, 

They  made  Baji  Rao  go  on  a  pilgrimage. 

Brothers  !  the  great  Sirdars  who  were  with  him, 

They  brought  a  troop  of  five  hundred  horse  ! 

The  Tuesday  fair  in  Benares  was  held  with  fireworks. 

They  made  the  Ganges  pink  with  rose-petals. 

Baji  Rao's  gifts  were  splendid. 

His  turban  and  coat  were  of  brocaded  silk, 

A  pair  of  diamonds  and  emeralds 

He  gave  to  the  Brahmans  of  Benares. 

Oh  brothers  !    the   Raja  sat  in  a  covered   howdah  bound   on    an 

elephant  ! 
Many  fans  waved  over  his  head  ; 
How  charitable  a  king  he  was  1 

In  the  above  song  a  note  of  regret  is  manifest  for  the 
parade  and  display  of  the  old  court  of  Nagpur,  English 
rule  being  less  picturesque.  The  next  is  a  song  about  the 
English  : 

The  English  have  taken  the  throne  of  Nagpur, 

The  fear  of  the  English  is  great. 

In  a  moment's  time  they  conquer  countries. 

The  guns  boomed,  the  English  came  strong  and  warlike, 

They  give  wealth  to  all. 

They  ram  the  ramrods  in  the  guns. 

They  conquered  also  Tippoo's  dominions, 

The  English  are  ruling  in  the  fort  of  Gawilgarh. 

The  following  is  another  song  about  the  English,  not 
quite  so  complimentary  : 

The  English  became  our  kings  and  have  made  current  the  kalddr 

(milled)  rupee. 
The  menials  are  favoured  and  the  Bhats  have  lost  their  profession, 
The  mango  has  lost  its  taste,  the  milk  has  lost  its  sweetness, 
The  rose  has  lost  its  scent. 
Baji  Rao  of  Nagpur  he  also  is  gone, 
No  longer  are  the  drums  beaten  at  the  palace  gate, 
Poona  customs  have  come  in. 

Brahmans  knowing  the  eighteen  Purans  have  become  Christians  ; 
The  son  thinks  himself  better  than  his  father, 
The  daughter-in-law  no  longer  respects  her  mother-in-law. 
The  wife  fights  with  her  husband. 
The  English  have  made  the  railways  and  telegraphs  ; 
The   people  wondered  at  the  silver   rupees   and   all   the   country 


n  /Uf AT  SONGS  269 

The  following  is  a  song  about  the  Nerbudda  at  Mandla, 
Revva  being  another  name  for  the  river : 

The  stream  of  the  world  springs  out  breaking  apart  the  hills  ; 

The  Revva  cuts  her  path  through  the  soil,  the  air  is  darkened  with  her 

All  the  length  of  her  banks  are  the  seats  of  saints  ;  hermits  and  pilgrims 

worship  her. 
On  seeing  the  holy  river  a  man's  sins  fall  away  as  wood  is  cut  by  a  saw  ; 
IJy  bathing  in  her  he  plucks  the  fruit  of  holiness. 
When  boats  are  caught  in  her  flood,  the  people  pray  :  '  We  are  sinners, 

O  Rewa,  bring  us  safely  to  the  bank  ! ' 
When  the  Nerbudda  is  in  flood,  Mandla  is  an  island  and  the  people 

think  their  end  has  come  : 
The  rain  pours  down  on  all  sides,  earth  and  sky  become  dark  as  smoke, 

and  men  call  on  Rama. 
The  bard  says  :   '  Let  it  rain  as  it  may,  some  one  will  save  us  as  Krishna 

saved  the  people  of  Brindawan  ! ' 

This  is  a  description  of  a  beautiful  woman  : 

A  beautiful  woman  is  loved  by  her  neighbours. 

But  she  will  let  none  come  to  her  and  answers  them  not. 

They  say :   '  Since  God  has  made  you  so  beautiful,  open  your  litter  and 

let  yourself  be  seen  ! ' 
He  who  sees  her  is  struck  as  by  lightning,  she  shoots  her  lover  with  the 

darts  of  her  eyes,  invisible  herself. 
She  will  not  go  to  her  husband's  house  till  he  has  her  brought  by  the 

When  she  goes  her  father's  village  is  left  empty. 
She  is  so  delicate  she  faints  at  the  sight  of  a  flower. 
Her  body  cannot  bear  the  weight  of  her  cloth. 
The  garland  of  jasmine-flowers  is  a  burden  on  her  neck, 
The  red  powder  on  her  feet  is  too  heavy  for  them. 

It  is  interesting  to  note  that  weakness  and  delicacy  in  a 
woman  are  emphasised  as  an  attraction,  as  in  English  litera- 
ture of  the  eighteenth  century. 

The  last  is  a  gentle  intimation  that  poets,  like  other 
people,  have  to  live  : 

It  is  useless  to  adorn  oneself  with  sandalwood  on  an  empty  belly, 

Nobody's  body  gets  fat  from  the  scent  of  flowers  ; 

The  singing  of  songs  excites  the  mind, 

But  if  the  body  is  not  fed  all  these  are  vain  and  hollow. 

All  Bhats  recite  their  verses  in  a  high-pitched  sing-song 
tone,  which  renders  it  very  difficult  for  their  hearers  to  grasp 

270  BHAT  PART  II 

the  sense  unless  they  know  it  ah'eady.  The  Vedas  and  all 
other  sacred  verses  are  spoken  in  this  manner,  perhaps  as 
a  mark  of  respect  and  to  distinguish  them  from  ordinary 
speech.  The  method  has  some  resemblance  to  intoning. 
Women  use  the  same  tone  when  mourning  for  the  dead. 



1.  General  notice  and  stntcti/re  of        6.  Propitiation  of  ghosts. 

the  caste.  7.  Religion.     Ceremonies  at  hunt- 

2.  Admission  of  outsiders.  ing, 

3.  A  r range jnent  of  marriages.  8.  Superstitious  retnedies. 

4.  The  Counter  of  Posts.  9.  Occupatioji. 

5.  Marriage  customs.  10.  Names. 

Bhatra.^ — A  primitive  tribe  of  the  Bastar  State  and  the  i.  General 
south  of  Raipur  District,  akin  to  the  Gonds.      They  numbered  "°'"^^  ^"^ 

•^  '  •'  structure 

33,000  persons  in  1 891,  and  in  subsequent  enumerations  of  the 
have  been  amalgamated  with  the  Gonds.  Nothing  is  known  ^^^'^' 
of  their  origin  except  a  legend  that  they  came  with  the 
Rajas  of  Bastar  from  Warangal  twenty-three  generations 
ago.  The  word  Bhatra  is  said  to  mean  a  servant,  and  the 
tribe  are  emplo}'ed  as  village  watchmen  and  household  and 
domestic  servants.  They  have  three  divisions,  the  Pit, 
Amnait  and  San  Bhatras,  who  rank  one  below  the  other, 
the  Pit  being  the  highest  and  the  San  the  lowest.  The  Pit 
Bhatras  base  their  superiority  on  the  fact  that  they  decline 
to  make  grass  mats,  which  the  Amnait  Bhatras  will  do, 
while  the  San  Bhatras  are  considered  to  be  practically 
identical  with  the  Muria  Gonds.  Members  of  the  three 
groups  will  eat  with  each  other  before  marriage,  but  after- 
wards they  will  take  only  food  cooked  without  water  from  a 
person  belonging  to  another  group.  They  have  the  usual 
set  of  exogamous  septs  named  after  plants  and  animals. 
Formerly,  it  is  said,  they  were  tattooed  with  representations 

1  This    article     is    compiled     from  ment  Officer,   Bastar ;  and  Mr.  Gopal 

papers    drawn    up    by    Rai    Bahadur  Krishna,      Assistant      Superintendent, 

Panda  Baijnath,   Superintendent,  Bas-  Bastar. 
tar  State  ;  Mr.  Ravi  Shankar,   Settle- 




2.  Admis- 
sion of 

3.  Arrange- 
ment of 

4.  The 

of  Posts. 

of  the  totem  plant  and  animal,  and  the  septs  named  after 
the  tiger  and  snake  ate  the  flesh  of  these  animals  at  a 
sacrificial  meal.  These  customs  have  fallen  into  abeyance, 
but  still  if  they  kill  their  totem  animal  they  will  make 
apologies  to  it,  and  break  their  cooking-pots,  and  bury  or 
burn  the  body,  A  man  of  substance  will  distribute  alms 
in  the  name  of  the  deceased  animal.  In  some  localities 
members  of  the  Kachhun  or  tortoise  sept  will  not  eat  a 
pumpkin  which  drops  from  a  tree  because  it  is  considered  to 
resemble  a  tortoise.  But  if  they  can  break  it  immediately 
on  touching  the  ground  they  may  partake  of  the  fruit,  the 
assumption  being  apparently  that  it  has  not  had  time  to 
become  like  a  tortoise. 

Outsiders  are  not  as  a  rule  admitted.  But  a  woman  of 
equal  or  higher  caste  who  enters  the  house  of  a  Bhatra  will 
be  recognised  as  his  wife,  and  a  man  of  the  Panara,  or 
gardener  caste,  can  also  become  a  member  of  the  community 
if  he  lives  with  a  Bhatra  woman  and  eats  from  her  hand. 

In  Raipur  a  girl  should  be  married  before  puberty,  and 
if  no  husband  is  immediately  available,  they  tie  a  few 
flowers  into  her  cloth  and  consider  this  as  a  marriage.  If 
an  unmarried  girl  becomes  pregnant  she  is  debarred  from 
going  through  the  wedding  ceremony,  and  will  simply  go 
and  live  with  her  lover  or  any  other  man.  Matches  are 
usually  arranged  by  the  parents,  but  if  a  daughter  is  not 
pleased  with  the  prospective  bridegroom,  who  may  some- 
times be  a  well-to-do  man  much  older  than  herself,  she 
occasionally  runs  away  and  goes  through  the  ceremony  on 
her  own  account  with  the  man  of  her  choice. 

If  no  one  has  asked  her  parents  for  her  hand  she  may 
similarly  select  a  husband  for  herself  and  make  her  wishes 
known,  but  in  that  case  she  is  temporarily  put  out  of  caste  _ 
until  the  chosen  bridegroom  signifies  his  acquiescence  by 
giving  the  marriage  feast.  What  happens  if  he  definitely 
fails  to  respond  is  not  stated,  but  presumably  the  young 
woman  tries  elsewhere  until  she  finds  herself  accepted. 

The  date  and  hour  of  the  wedding  are  fixed  by  an 
official  known  as  the  Meda  Gantia,  or  Counter  of  Posts. 
He  is  a  sort  of  illiterate  village  astrologer,  who  can  foretell 
the  character  of  the  rainfall,  and  gives  auspicious  dates  for 


sowing  and  harvest.  He  goes  through  some  training,  and 
as  a  test  of  his  capacity  is  required  by  his  teacher  to  tell  at 
a  glance  the  number  of  posts  in  an  enclosure  which  he  has 
not  seen  before.  Having  done  this  correctly  he  qualifies  as 
a  Meda  Gantia.  Apparently  the  Bhatras,  being  unable  at 
one  time  to  count  themselves,  acquired  an  exaggerated 
reverence  for  the  faculty  of  counting,  and  thought  that  if  a 
man  could  only  count  far  enough  he  could  reckon  into  the 
future  ;  or  it  might  be  thought  that  as  he  could  count  and 
name  future  days,  he  thus  obtained  power  over  them,  and 
could  tell  what  would  happen  on  them  just  as  one  can 
obtain  power  over  a  man  and  work  him  injury  by  knowing 
his  real  name. 

At  a  wedding  the  couple  walk  seven  times  round  the  5-  MJit"- 
sacred  post,  which  must  be  of  wood  of  the  mahua  ^  tree,  and  customs. 
on  its  conclusion  the  post  is  taken  to  a  river  or  stream  and 
consigned  to  the  water.  The  Bhatras,  like  the  Gonds,  no 
doubt  revere  this  tree  because  their  intoxicating  liquor  is 
made  from  its  flowers.  The  couple  wear  marriage  crowns 
made  from  the  leaves  of  the  date  palm  and  exchange  these. 
A  little  turmeric  and  flour  are  mixed  with  water  in  a  plate, 
and  the  bride,  taking  the  bridegroom's  right  hand,  dips 
it  into  the  coloured  paste  and  strikes  it  against  the  wall. 
The  action  is  repeated  five  times,  and  then  the  bridegroom 
does  the  same  with  the  bride's  hand.  By  this  rite  the 
couple  pledge  each  other  for  their  mutual  behaviour  during 
married  life.  From  the  custom  of  making  an  impression  of 
the  hand  on  a  wall  in  token  of  a  vow  may  have  arisen  that 
of  clasping  hands  as  a  symbol  of  a  bargain  assented  to,  and 
hence  of  shaking  hands,  by  persons  who  meet,  as  a  pledge 
of  amity  and  the  absence  of  hostile  intentions.  Usually  the 
hand  is  covered  with  red  ochre,  which  is  probably  a  sub- 
stitute for  blood  ;  and  the  impression  of  the  hand  is  made 
on  the  wall  of  a  temple  in  token  of  a  vow.  This  may  be  a 
survival  of  the  covenant  made  by  the  parties  dipping  their 
hands  in  the  blood  of  the  sacrifice  and  laying  them  on  the 
god.  A  pit  about  a  foot  deep  is  dug  close  to  the  marriage- 
shed,  and  filled  with  mud  or  wet  earth.  The  bride  conceals 
a  nut   in   the  mud  and   the   bridegroom   has   to   find  it,  and 

1  Bassia  latifolia. 
VOL.  II  T 

274  BHATRA  part 

the  hiding  and  finding  are  repeated  by  both  parties.  This 
rite  may  have  the  signification  of  looking  for  children.  The 
remainder  of  the  day  is  spent  in  eating,  drinking  and  dancing. 
On  the  way  home  after  the  wedding  the  bridegroom  has  to 
shoot  a  deer,  the  animal  being  represented  by  a  branch  of  a 
tree  thrown  across  the  path  by  one  of  the  party.  But  if 
a  real  deer  happens  by  any  chance  to  come  by  he  has  to 
shoot  this.  The  bride  goes  up  to  the  real  or  sham  deer  and 
pulls  out  the  arrow,  and  presents  her  husband  with  water  and 
a  tooth-stick,  after  which  he  takes  her  in  his  arms  and  they 
dance  home  together.  On  arrival  at  the  house  the  bride- 
groom's maternal  uncle  or  his  son  lies  down  before  the  door 
covering  himself  with  a  blanket.  He  is  asked  what  he  wants, 
and  says  he  will  have  tlie  daughter  of  the  bridegroom  to  wife. 
The  bridegroom  promises  to  give  a  daughter  if  he  has  one, 
and  if  he  has  a  son  to  give  him  for  a  friend.  The  tribe 
consider  that  a  man  has  a  right  to  marry  the  daughter  of 
his  maternal  uncle,  and  formerly  if  the  girl  was  refused  by 
her  parents  he  abducted  her  and  married  her  forcibly.  The 
bride  remains  at  her  husband's  house  for  a  few  days  and 
then  goes  home,  and  before  she  finally  takes  up  her  abode 
with  him  the  gamia  or  going-away  ceremony  must  be  per- 
formed. The  hands  of  the  bride  and  bridegroom  are  tied 
together,  and  an  arrow  is  held  upright  on  them  and  some  oil 
poured  over  it.  The  foreheads  of  the  couple  are  marked 
with  turmeric  and  rice,  this  rite  being  known  as  tika  or 
anointing,  and  presents  are  given  to  the  bride's  family. 
6.  Pro-  The  dead  are  buried,  the  corpse  being  laid  on  its  back 

pitiation  of  ^yjtj-^   thg    head    to    the    north.      Some    rice,   cowrie-shells,   a 


winnowing-fan  and  other  articles  are  placed  on  the  grave. 
The  tribe  probably  consider  the  winnowing-fan  to  have 
some  magical  property,  as  it  also  forms  one  of  the  presents 
given  to  the  bride  at  the  betrothal.  If  a  man  is  killed  by 
a  tiger  his  spirit  must  be  propitiated.  The  priest  ties  strips 
of  tiger-skin  to  his  arms,  and  the  feathers  of  the  peacock  and 
blue  jay  to  his  waist,  and  jumps  about  pretending  to  be  a 
tiger.  A  package  of  a  hundred  seers  (200  lbs.)  of  rice  is 
made  up,  and  he  sits  on  this  and  finally  takes  it  away  with 
him.  If  the  dead  man  had  any  ornaments  they  must  all  be 
given,  however  valuable,  lest  his  spirit  should  hanker  after 


them  and  return  to  look  for  them  in  the  shape  of  the  tiger. 
The  lari^^e  quantity  of  rice  given  to  the  priest  is  also  probably 
intended  as  a  provision  of  the  best  food  for  the  dead  man's 
spirit,  lest  it  be  hungry  and  come  in  the  shape  of  the  tiger 
to  satisfy  its  appetite  upon  the  surviving  relatives.  The 
laying  of  the  ghosts  of  persons  killed  by  tigers  is  thus  a 
very  profitable  business  for  the  priests. 

The  tribe  worship  the  god  of  hunting,  who  is  known  as  7.  Reii- 
Mati  Deo  and  resides  in  a  separate  tree  in  each  village.      At  ^'°"".  ^^''^' 

_      .  .  .  monies  at 

the  Bljphutni  (threshing)  or  harvest  festival  in  the  month  of  hunting. 
Chait  (March)  they  have  a  ceremonial  hunting  party.  All 
the  people  of  the  village  collect,  each  man  having  a  bow 
and  arrow  slung  to  his  back  and  a  hatchet  on  his  shoulder. 
They  spread  out  a  long  net  in  the  forest  and  beat  the 
animals  into  this,  usually  catching  a  deer,  wild  pig  or  hare, 
and  quails  and  other  birds.  They  return  and  cook  the  game 
before  the  shrine  of  the  god  and  offer  to  him  a  fowl  and  a 
pig.  A  pit  is  dug  and  water  poured  into  it,  and  a  person 
from  each  house  must  stand  in  the  mud.  A  little  seed  taken 
from  each  house  is  also  soaked  in  the  mud,  and  after  the 
feast  is  over  this  is  taken  and  returned  to  the  householder 
with  words  of  abuse,  a  small  present  of  two  or  three  pice 
being  received  from  him.  The  seed  is  no  doubt  thus  con- 
secrated for  the  next  sowing.  The  tribe  also  have  joint 
ceremonial  fishing  excursions.  Their  ideas  of  a  future  life 
are  very  vague,  and  they  have  no  belief  in  a  place  of  reward  or 
punishment  after  death.  They  propitiate  the  spirits  of  their 
ancestors  on  the  15th  of  Asarh  (June)  with  offerings  of  a 
little  rice  and  incense. 

To  cure  the  evil  eye  they  place  a  little  gunpowder  in  s.  Super- 
water  and  apply  it  to  the  sufferer's  eyes,  the  idea  perhaps 
being  that  the  fiery  glance  from  the  evil  eye  which  struck 
him  is  quenched  like  the  gunpowder.  To  bring  on  rain 
they  perform  a  frog  marriage,  tying  two  frogs  to  a  pestle 
and  pouring  oil  and  turmeric  over  them  as  in  a  real 
marriage.  The  children  carry  them  round  begging  from 
door  to  door  and  finally  deposit  them  in  water.  They  say 
that  when  rain  falls  and  the  sun  shines  together  the  jackals 
are  being  married.  Formerly  a  woman  suspected  of  being 
a  witch  was  tied  up  in  a  bag  and  thrown  into  a  river  or  tank 



276  BHATRA  part 

at  various  places  set  apart  for  the  purpose.  If  she  sank  she 
was  held  to  be  innocent,  and  if  she  floated,  guilty.  In  the 
latter  case  she  had  to  defile  herself  by  taking  the  bone  of  a 
cow  and  the  tail  of  a  pig  in  her  mouth,  and  it  was  supposed 
that  this  drove  out  the  magic-working  spirit.  In  the  case 
of  illness  of  their  children  or  cattle,  or  the  failure  of  crops, 
they  consult  the  Pujari  or  priest  and  make  an  offering.  He 
applies  some  flowers  or  grains  of  rice  to  the  forehead  of  the 
deity,  and  when  one  of  these  falls  down  he  diagnoses  from 
it  the  nature  of  the  illness,  and  gives  it  to  the  sufferer  to 
wear  as  a  charm. 

9.  Occupa-  The  tribe  are  cultivators  and  farmservants,  and   practise 
^'°"-            shifting   cultivation.      They  work   as  village   watchmen   and 

also  as  the  Majhi  or  village  headman  and  the  Pujari  or 
village  priest.  These  officials  are  paid  by  contributions  of 
grain  from  the  cultivators.  And  as  already  seen,  the  Bhatras 
are  employed  as  household  servants  and  will  clean  cooking- 
vessels.  Since  they  act  as  village  priests,  it  may  perhaps  be 
concluded  that  the  Bhatras  like  the  Parjas  are  older  residents 
of  Bastar  than  the  bulk  of  the  Gonds,  and  they  have  become 
the  household  servants  of  the  Hindu  immigrants,  which  the 
Gonds  would  probably  disdain  to  do.  Some  of  them  wear 
the  sacred  thread,  but  in  former  times  the  Bastar  Raja  would 
invest  any  man  with  this  for  a  fee  of  four  or  five  rupees,  and 
the  Bhatras  therefore  purchased  the  social  distinction.  They 
find  it  inconvenient,  however,  and  lay  it  aside  when  proceed- 
ing to  their  work  or  going  out  to  hunt.  If  a  man  breaks 
his  thread  he  must  wait  till  a  Brahman  comes  round,  when 
he  can  purchase  another. 

10.  Names.  Among  a  list  of  personal  names  given  by  Mr.  Baijnath 

the  following  are  of  some  interest :  Pillu,  one  of  short 
stature  ;  Matola,  one  who  learnt  to  walk  late  ;  Phagu, 
born  in  Phagun  (February)  ;  Ghinu,  dirty-looking ;  Dasru, 
born  on  the  Dasahra  festival  ;  Ludki,  one  with  a  fleshy  ear  ; 
Dalu,  big-bellied  ;  Mudi,  a  ring,  this  name  having  been 
given  to  a  child  which  cried  much  after  birth,  but  when  its 
nose  was  pierced  and  a  ring  put  in  it  stopped  crying  ;  Chhi, 
given  to  a  child  which  sneezed  immediately  after  birth ; 
Nunha,  a  posthumous  child  ;  and  Bhuklu,  a  child  which 
began  to  play  almost  as  soon  as  born.      The  above  instances 

II  NAMES  277 

indicate  that  it  is  a  favourite  plan  to  select  the  name  from 
any  characteristic  displayed  by  the  child  soon  after  birth,  or 
from  any  circumstance  or  incident  connected  with  its  birth. 
Among  names  of  women  are  :  Cherangi,  thin  ;  Fundi,  one 
with  swollen  cheeks  ;  Kandri,  one  given  to  crying  ;  Mahlna 
(month),  a  child  born  a  month  late  ;  Batai,  one  with  large 
eyes ;  Gaida,  fat ;  Pakli,  of  fair  colour ;  Boda,  one  with 
crooked  legs  ;  Jhunki,  one  with  small  eyes  ;  Rupi,  a  girl 
who  was  given  a  nose-ring  of  silver  as  her  brothers  had 
died  ;  Paro^  born  on  a  field-embankment  ;  Dango,  tall.  A 
woman  must  not  call  by  their  names  her  father-in-law, 
mother-in-law,  her  husband's  brothers  and  elder  sisters  and 
the  sons  and  daughters  of  her  husband's  brothers  and  sisters. 



1.  General  notice.      The  Bhils  a  7. 

Kolarian  tribe. 

2.  Rajputs  deriving  their  title  to  8. 

the  land  from  the  Bhils.  9. 

3.  Historical  notice.  10. 

4.  General      Out  ram      and     the  11. 

Khdndesh  Bhtl  Corps.  12. 

5 .  Siibdivisio7is. 

6.  Exogamy  and  marriage   ciis-  13. 

to)ns.  1 4. 

Widoiv-marriage,  divorce  and 


Witchcraft  and  amulets. 

Funeral  rites. 

Social  custojns. 

Appeara7ice  and  character- 



I.  General 
The  Bhils 
a  Kolarian 

Bhll.^ — An  indigenous  or  non-Aryan  tribe  which  has 
been  much  in  contact  with  the  Hindus  and  is  consequently- 
well  known.  The  home  of  the  Bhils  is  the  country  com- 
prised in  the  hill  ranges  of  Khandesh,  Central  India  and 
Rajputana,  west  from  the  Satpuras  to  the  sea  in  Gujarat. 
The  total  number  of  Bhils  in  India  exceeds  a  million  and  a 
half,  of  which  the  great  bulk  belong  to  Bombay,  Rajputana 
and  Central  India.  The  Central  Provinces  have  only  about 
28,000,  practically  all  of  whom  reside  in  the  Nimar  district, 
on  the  hills  forming  the  western  end  of  the  Satpura  range 
and  adjoining  the  Rajpipla  hills  of  Khandesh.  As  the 
southern  slopes  of  these  hills  lie  in  Berar,  a  few  Bhils  are 
also  found  there.  The  name  Bhil  seems  to  occur  for  the 
first  time  about  A.D.  600.  It  is  supposed  to  be  derived  from 
the  Dravidian  word  for  a  bow,  which  is  the  characteristic 
weapon  of  the  tribe.      It  has  been  suggested  that  the  Bhils 

^  The  principal  authorities  on  the 
Bhils  are :  An  Account  of  the  Alewdr 
Bhils,  by  Major  P.  11.  Hendley, 
f.A.S.B.  vol.  xliv.,  1875,  PP-  347-385  ; 
the  Bombay  Gazetteer,  vol.  ix.,  Hindus 

of  Gujarat ;  and  notices  in  Colonel 
Tod's  Rcyasthdn,  Mr.  A.  L.  Forbes's 
Rdsmala,  and  The  Khandesh  Bhil 
Corps,  by  Mr.  A.  H.  A.  Simcox, 


PA  in  II    RAJPUTS  AND  THEIR  TII'LE  TO  T//J-:  LAND     279 

are  the  Pygmies  referred  to  by  Ktesias  (400  H.c.)  and  the 
Phylhtae  of  Ptolemy  (a.u.  150).  The  Bhils  are  recognised 
as  the  oldest  inhabitants  of  southern  Rajputana  and  parts  of 
Gujarat,  and  are  usually  spoken  of  in  conjunction  witli  the 
Kolis,  who  inhabit  the  adjoining  tracts  of  Gujarat.  The 
most  probable  hypotheilsis  of  the  origin  of  the  Kolis  is  that 
they  are  a  western  branch  of  the  Kol  or  Munda  tribe  who 
have  spread  from  Chota  Nagpur,  through  Mandla  and 
Jubbulpore,  Central  India  and  Rajputana  to  Gujarat  and 
the  sea.  If  this  is  correct  the  Kolis  would  be  a  Kolarian 
tribe.  The  Bhils  have  lost  their  own  language,  so  that  it 
cannot  be  ascertained  whether  it  was  Kolarian  or  Dravidian. 
But  there  is  nothing  against  its  being  Kolarian  in  Sir 
G.  Grierson's  opinion  ;  and  in  view  of  the  length  of  residence 
of  the  tribe,  the  fact  that  they  have  abandoned  their  own 
language  and  their  association  with  the  Kolis,  this  view  may 
be  taken  as  generally  probable.  The  Dravidian  tribes  have 
not  penetrated  so  far  west  as  Central  India  and  Gujarat  in 
appreciable  numbers. 

The    Rajputs    still    recognise   the    Bhils    as    the    former  2.  Rajputs 
residents  and  occupiers  of  the  land  by  the  fact  that  some  their'"^ 
Rajput  chiefs   must  be  marked  on  the  brow  with  a  Bhll's  title  to  the 

,,,  .  iz-rf  1  1-  T-j    l^"d  from 

blood  on  accession  to  the  Gaddi  or  regal  cushion.  1  od  ^^^^  ghOs. 
relates  how  Goha,^  the  eponymous  ancestor  of  the  Sesodia 
Rajputs,  took  the  state  of  Idar  in  Gujarat  from  a  Bhil  : 
"  At  this  period  Idar  was  governed  by  a  chief  of  the 
savage  race  of  Bhils.  The  young  Goha  frequented  the 
forests  in  company  with  the  Bhils,  whose  habits  better 
assimilated  with  his  daring  nature  than  those  of  the  Brah- 
mans.  He  became  a  favourite  with  these  vena-putras  or 
sons  of  the  forest,  who  resigned  to  him  Idar  with  its  woods 
and  mountains.  The  Bhils  having  determined  in  sport  to 
elect  a  king,  their  choice  fell  on  Goha  ;  and  one  of  the  young 
savages,  cutting  his  finger,  applied  the  blood  as  the  badge 
{tikd)  of  sovereignty  to  his  forehead.  What  was  done  in 
sport  was  confirmed  by  the  old  forest  chief.  The  sequel 
fixes    on    Goha    the    stain   of  ingratitude,   for    he    slew   his 

1  The  old  name  of  the  Sesodia  clan,       for  a  notice  of  the  real  origin  of  the 
Gahlot,  is  held  to  be  derived  from  this       clan. 
Goha.      See  the  article  Rajput  Sesodia 

28o  BHIL  PART 

benefactor,  and  no  motive  is  assigned  in  the  legend   for  the 
deed."  ^ 

The  legend  is  of  course  a  euphemism  for  the  fact  that 
the  Rajputs  conquered  and  dispossessed  the  Bhils  of 
Idar.  But  it  is  interesting  as  an  indication  that  they  did 
not  consider  themselves  to  derive  a  proper  title  to  the  land 
merely  from  the  conquest,  but  wished  also  to  show  that  it 
passed  to  them  by  the  designation  and  free  consent  of  the 
Bhils.  The  explanation  is  perhaps  that  they  considered  the 
gods  of  the  Bhils  to  be  the  tutelary  guardians  and  owners  of 
the  land,  whom  they  must  conciliate  before  they  could  hope  to 
enjoy  it  in  quiet  and  prosperity.  This  token  of  the  devolution 
of  the  land  from  its  previous  holders,  the  Bhils,  was  till  recently 
repeated  on  the  occasion  of  each  succession  of  a  Sesodia 
chief  "  The  Bhil  landholders  of  Oguna  and  Undri  still 
claim  the  privilege  of  performing  the  tlka  for  the  Sesodias. 
The  Oguna  Bhil  makes  the  mark  of  sovereignty  on  the 
chief's  forehead  with  blood  drawn  from  his  own  thumb,  and 
then  takes  the  chief  by  the  arm  and  seats  him  on  the 
throne,  while  the  Undri  Bhil  holds  the  salver  of  spices  and 
sacred  grains  of  rice  used  in  making  the  badge."  ^  The 
story  that  Goha  killed  the  old  Bhil  chief,  his  benefactor, 
who  had  adopted  him  as  heir  and  successor,  which  fits  in 
very  badly  with  the  rest  of  the  legend,  is  probably  based 
on  another  superstition.  Sir  J.  G.  Frazer  has  shown  in  The 
Golden  Bough  that  in  ancient  times  it  was  a  common 
superstition  that  any  one  who  killed  the  king  had  a  right  to 
succeed  him.  The  belief  was  that  the  king  was  the  god 
of  the  country,  on  whose  health,  strength  and  efficiency  its 
prosperity  depended.  When  the  king  grew  old  and  weak 
it  was  time  for  a  successor,  and  he  who  could  kill  the  king 
proved  in  this  manner  that  the  divine  power  and  strength 
inherent  in  the  late  king  had  descended  to  him,  and  he  was 
therefore  the  fit  person  to  be  king.^  An  almost  similar 
story  is  told  of  the  way  in  which  the  Kachhwaha  Rajputs 
took  the  territory  of  Amber  State  from  the  Mina  tribe. 
The  infant  Rajput  prince  had  been   deprived   of  Narwar   by 

'   RajastJidii,  i.  p.   184.  Golden   Botigh    for    the    full    explana- 

^  Ibidem,  p.  1S6.  tion    and    illustration    of    this    super- 

3  Reference  may    be   made  to   The       stition. 


his  uncle,  and  his  mother  wandered  forth  carryinc^  him  in  a 
basket,  till  she  came  to  the  capital  of  the  Minas,  where  she 
first  obtained  employment  in  the  chiefs  kitchen.  But 
owing  to  her  good  cooking  she  attracted  his  wife's  notice 
and  ultimately  disclosed  her  identity  and  told  her  story. 
The  Mina  chief  then  adopted  her  as  his  sister  and  the  boy 
as  his  nephew.  This  boy,  Dhola  Rai,  on  growing  up 
obtained  a  (cw  Rajput  adherents  and  slaughtered  all  the 
Minas  while  they  were  bathing  at  the  feast  of  Diwali,  after 
which  he  usurped  their  country.^  The  repetition  both  of 
the  adoption  and  the  ungrateful  murder  shows  the  import- 
ance attached  by  the  Rajputs  to  both  beliefs  as  necessary  to 
the  validity  of  their  succession  and  occupation  of  the  land. 

The  position  of  the-  Bhlls  as  the  earliest  residents  of 
the  country  was  also  recognised  by  their  employment  in 
the  capacity  of  village  watchmen.  One  of  the  duties  of 
this  official  is  to  know  the  village  boundaries  and  keep 
watch  and  ward  over  them,  and  it  was  supposed  that  the 
oldest  class  of  residents  would  know  them  best.  The  Bhlls 
worked  in  the  office  of  Mankar,  the  superior  village  watch- 
man, in  Nimar  and  also  in  Berar.  Grant  Duff  states  "  that 
the  Ramosi  or  Bhil  was  emplo)'ed  as  village  guard  by  the 
Marathas,  and  the  Ramosis  were  a  professional  caste  of 
village  policemen,  probably  derived  from  the  Bhlls  or  from 
the  Bhlls  and  Kolis. 

The  Rajputs  seem  at  first  to  have  treated  the  Bhlls  3.  Histori- 
leniently.  Intermarriage  was  frequent,  especially  in  the 
families  of  BhIl  chieftains,  and  a  new  caste  called  Bhilala  ^ 
has  arisen,  which  is  composed  of  the  descendants  of  mixed 
Rajput  and  Bhil  marriages.  Chiefs  and  landholders  in 
the  Bhll  country  now  belong  to  this  caste,  and  it  is 
possible  that  some  pure  Bhll  families  may  have  been 
admitted  to  it.  The  Bhilalas  rank  above  the  Bhlls,  on  a 
level  with  the  cultivating  castes.  Instances  occasionally 
occurred  in  which  the  children  of  a  Rajput  by  a  Bhll  wife 
became  Rajputs.  When  Colonel  Tod  wrote,  Rajputs  would 
still  take  food  with  Ujla  Bhlls  or  those  of  pure  aboriginal 
descent,  and  all  castes  would  take  water  from  them."*      But 

1   RSjasthan,  ii.  pp.  320,  321.  3  gee  article. 

"^History  of  the  Alardihas,  i.  p.  28.  "*  Rajasthan,  ii.  p.  466. 

282  BHIL  PART 

as  Hinduism  came  to  be  more  orthodox  in  Rajputana,  the 
Bhils  sank  to  the  position  of  outcastes.  Their  custom  of 
eating  beef  had  always  caused  them  to  be  much  despised. 
A  tradition  is  related  that  one  day  the  god  Mahadeo  or 
Siva,  sick  and  unhappy,  was  reclining  in  a  shady  forest  when 
a  beautiful  woman  appeared,  the  first  sight  of  whom  effected 
a  cure  of  all  his  complaints.  An  intercourse  between  the 
god  and  the  strange  female  was  established,  the  result  of 
which  was  many  children  ;  one  of  whom,  from  infancy 
distinguished  alike  by  his  ugliness  and  vice,  slew  the  favourite 
bull  of  Mahadeo,  for  which  crime  he  was  expelled  to  the 
woods  and  mountains,  and  his  descendants  have  ever  since 
been  stigmatised  by  the  names  of  Bhil  and  Nishada.^ 
Nishada  is  a  term  of  contempt  applied  to  the  lowest  out- 
castes. Major  Hendley,  writing  in  1875,  states:  "Some 
time  since  a  Thakur  (chief)  cut  off  the  legs  of  two  Bhils, 
eaters  of  the  sacred  cow,  and  plunged  the  stumps  into  boiling 
oil."  ^  When  the  Marathas  began  to  occupy  Central  India 
they  treated  the  Bhils  with  great  cruelty.  A  BhIl  caught 
in  a  disturbed  part  of  the  country  was  without  inquiry  flogged 
and  hanged.  Hundreds  were  thrown  over  high  cliffs,  and 
large  bodies  of  them,  assembled  under  promise  of  pardon, 
were  beheaded  or  blown  from  guns.  Their  women  were 
mutilated  or  smothered  by  smoke,  and  their  children  smashed 
to  death  against  the  stones.^  This  treatment  may  to  some 
extent  have  been  deserved  owing  to  the  predatory  habits  and 
cruelty  of  the  Bhils,  but  its  result  was  to  make  them  utter 
savages  with  their  hand  against  every  man,  as  they  believed 
that  every  one's  was  against  them.  From  their  strongholds 
in  the  hills  they  laid  waste  the  plain  country,  holding  villages 
and  towns  to  ransom  and  driving  off  cattle  ;  nor  did  any 
travellers  pass  with  impunity  through  the  hills  except  in 
convoys  too  large  to  be  attacked.  In  Khandesh,  during  the 
disturbed  period  of  the  wars  of  Sindhia  and  Holkar,  about 
A.D.  I  800,  the  Bhils  betook  themselves  to  highway  robbery 
and  lived  in  bands  either  in  mountains  or  in  villages  im- 
mediately beneath    them.       The  revenue    contractors  were 

1   Malcolm,      Memoir     of     Central       (1875),  p.  369. 
India,  i.  p.  518.  ^  Hyderabad  Census  Report  (1891), 

"^  An  Account  of  the  Bhils,  J.A.S.B.       p.  218. 

Bemrose,  Collo.,   Derby. 
TANTIA     BHTL,    a     FAMOUS     DACOIT. 


unable  or  unwilling  to  spend  money  in  the  maintenance 
of  soldiers  to  protect  the  country,  and  the  Bhils  in  a  very 
short  time  became  so  bold  as  to  appear  in  bands  of  hundreds 
and  attack  towns,  carrying  off  either  cattle  or  hostages,  for 
whom  they  demanded  handsome  ransoms.^  In  Gujarat 
another  writer  described  the  Bhils  and  Kolis  as  hereditary 
and  professional  plunderers  — '  Soldiers  of  the  night,'  as  they 
themselves  said  they  were."  Malcolm  said  of  them,  after 
peace  had  been  restored  to  Central  India  :^  "Measures  are 
in  progress  that  will,  it  is  expected,  soon  complete  the  re- 
formation of  a  class  of  men  who,  believing  themselves  doomed 
to  be  thieves  and  plunderers,  have  been  confirmed  in  their 
destiny  by  the  oppression  and  cruelty  of  neighbouring  govern- 
ments, increased  by  an  avowed  contempt  for  them  as  out- 
casts. The  feeling  this  system  of  degradation  has  produced 
must  be  changed  ;  and  no  effort  has  been  left  untried  to 
restore  this  race  of  men  to  a  better  sense  of  their  condition 
than  that  which  they  at  present  entertain.  The  common 
answer  of  a  Bhil  when  charged  with  theft  or  robbery  is,  '  I 
am  not  to  blame  ;  I  am  the  thief  of  Mahadeo ' ;  in  other 
words,  '  My  destiny  as  a  thief  has  been  fixed  by  God.' " 
The  Bhil  chiefs,  who  were  known  as  Bhumia,  exercised  the 
most  absolute  power,  and  their  orders  to  commit  the  most 
atrocious  crimes  were  obeyed  by  their  ignorant  but  attached 
subjects  without  a  conception  on  the  part  of  the  latter  that 
they  had  an  option  when  he  whom  they  termed  their  Dhunni 
(Lord)  issued  the  mandates.'*  firearms  and  swords  were 
only  used  by  the  chiefs  and  headmen  of  the  tribe,  and  their 
national  weapon  was  the  bamboo  bow  having  the  bowstring 
made  from  a  thin  strip  of  its  elastic  bark.  The  quiver  was 
a  piece  of  strong  bamboo  matting,  and  would  contain  sixty 
barbed  arrows  a  yard  long,  and  tipped  with  an  iron  spike 
either  flattened  and  sharpened  like  a  knife  or  rounded  like  a 
nail  ;  other  arrows,  used  for  knocking  over  birds,  had  knob- 
like heads.  Thus  armed,  the  Bhils  would  lie  in  wait  in  some 
deep  ravine  by  the  roadside,  and  an  infernal  yell  announced 
their  attack  to  the  unwary  traveller.^      Major  Hendley  states 

^    The  Kliandesh  Bhil  Corps,  by  Mr  ^  Metnoir  of  Central  India,  ■  i.    pp. 

A.  H.  A.  Simcox.  525,  526. 

■*  Ibidem,  i.  p.  550. 
2  Forbes,  RdsmCxla,  i.  p.  104.  "  Hobson-Jobson,  art,  Bhil. 



that  according  to  tradition  in  the  Mahabharata  the  god 
Krishna  was  killed  by  a  Bhll's  arrow,  when  he  was  fighting 
against  them  in  Gujarat  with  the  Yadavas ;  and  on  this 
account  it  was  ordained  that  the  Bhil  should  never  again  be 
able  to  draw  the  bow  with  the  forefinger  of  the  right  hand. 
"  Times  have  changed  since  then,  but  I  noticed  in  examining 
their  hands  that  few  could  move  the  forefinger  without  the 
second  finger  ;  indeed  the  fingers  appeared  useless  as  in- 
dependent members  of  the  hands.  In  connection  with  this 
may  be  mentioned  their  apparent  inability  to  distinguish 
colours  or  count  numbers,  due  alone  to  their  want  of  words 
to  express  themselves."  ^ 

The  reclamation  and  pacification  of  the  Bhlls  is  insepar- 
ably associated  with  the  name  of  Lieutenant,  afterwards  Sir 
James,  Outram.  The  Khandesh  BhIl  Corps  was  first  raised 
by  him  in  1825,  when  Bhil  robber  bands  were  being  hunted 
down  by  small  parties  of  troops,  and  those  who  were  willing 
to  surrender  were  granted  a  free  pardon  for  past  offences, 
and  given  grants  of  land  for  cultivation  and  advances  for  the 
purchase  of  seed  and  bullocks.  When  the  first  attempts  to 
raise  the  corps  were  made,  the  Bhlls  believed  that  the  object 
was  to  link  them  in  line  like  galley-slaves  with  a  view  to 
extirpate  the  race,  that  blood  was  in  high  demand  as  a 
medicine  in  the  country  of  their  foreign  masters,  and  so  on. 
Indulging  the  wild  men  with  feasts  and  entertainments,  and 
delighting  them  with  his  matchless  urbanity.  Captain  Outram 
at  length  contrived  to  draw  over  to  the  cause  nine  recruits, 
one  of  whom  was  a  notorious  plunderer  who  had  a  short 
time  before  successfully  robbed  the  officer  commanding  a 
detachment  sent  against  him.  This  infant  corps  soon 
became  strongly  attached  to  the  person  of  their  new  chief 
and  entirely  devoted  to  his  wishes  ;  their  goodwill  had  been 
won  by  his  kind  and  conciliatory  manners,  while  their  ad- 
miration and  respect  had  been  thoroughly  roused  and  excited 
by  his  prowess  and  valour  in  the  chase.  On  one  occasion, 
it  is  recorded,  word  was  brought  to  Outram  of  the  presence 
of  a  panther  in  some  prickly-pear  shrubs  on  the  side  of  a 
hill  near  his  station.  He  went  to  shoot  it  with  a  friend, 
Outram  being  on  foot  and  his  friend  on  horseback  searching 

'  An  Accoimt  of  the  Bhlls,  p.  369. 


through  the  bushes.  When  close  on  the  animal,  Outrain's 
friend  fired  and  missed,  on  which  the  panther  sprang  forward 
roaring  and  seized  Outram,  and  they  rolled  down  the  hill 
together.  Being  released  from  the  claws  of  the  furious 
beast  for  a  moment,  Outram  with  great  presence  of  mind 
drew  a  pistol  which  he  had  with  him,  and  shot  the  panther 
dead.  The  IMills,  on  seeing  that  he  had  been  injured,  were 
one  and  all  loud  in  their  grief  and  expressions  of  regret, 
when  Outram  quieted  them  with  the  remark,  '  What  do  I 
care  for  the  clawing  of  a  cat  ? '  and  this  saying  long  re- 
mained a  proverb  among  the  Bhlls.^  By  his  kindness  and 
sympathy,  listening  freely  to  all  that  each  single  man  in  the 
corps  had  to  say  to  him,  Outram  at  length  won  their  con- 
fidence, convinced  them  of  his  good  faith  and  dissipated  their 
fears  of  treachery.  Soon  the  ranks  of  the  corps  became  full, 
and  for  every  vacant  place  there  were  numbers  of  applicants. 
The  Bhils  freely  hunted  down  and  captured  their  friends  and 
relations  who  continued  to  create  disturbances,  and  brought 
them  in  for  punishment.  Outram  managed  to  check  their 
propensity  for  liquor  by  paying  them  every  day  just  sufificient 
for  their  food,  and  giving  them  the  balance  of  their  pay  at 
the  end  of  the  month,  when  some  might  have  a  drinking 
bout,  but  many  preferred  to  spend  the  money  on  ornaments 
and  articles  of  finery.  With  the  assistance  of  the  corps  the 
marauding  tendencies  of  the  hill  Bhils  were  suppressed  and 
tranquillity  restored  to  Khandesh,  which  rapidly  became  one 
of  the  most  fertile  parts  of  India.  During  the  Mutiny  the 
Bhil  corps  remained  loyal,  and  did  good  service  in  checking 
the  local  outbursts  which  occurred  in  Khandesh.  A  second 
battalion  was  raised  at  this  time,  but  was  disbanded  three 
years  afterwards.  After  this  the  corps  had  little  or  nothing 
to  do,  and  as  the  absence  of  fighting  and  the  higher  wages 
which  could  be  obtained  by  ordinary  labour  ceased  to  render 
it  attractive  to  the  Bhils,  it  was  finally  converted  into  police 
in  1891.^ 

The  Bhils  of  the   Central   Provinces   have  now  only  two  5-  Sub- 
subdivisions,  the  Muhammadan  Bhils,  who  were  forcibly  con- 
verted   to    Islam    during  the    time    of  Aurangzeb,   and    the 
remainder,  who  though  retaining  many  animistic  beliefs  and 

^   The  Khandesh  Bhll  Corps,  p.  71.  ^  Ibidem,  p.  275. 

286  BHiL  PART 

superstitions,  have  practically  become  Hindus.  The 
Muhammadan  Bhils  only  number  about  3000  out  of  28,000. 
They  are  known  as  Tadvi,  a  name  which  was  formerly 
applied  to  a  Bhil  headman,  and  is  said  to  be  derived  from 
tad,  meaning  a  separate  branch  or  section.  These  Bhlls 
marry  among  themselves  and  not  with  any  other  Muham- 
madans.  They  retain  many  Hindu  and  animistic  usages, 
and  are  scarcely  Muhammadan  in  more  than  name.  Both 
classes  are  divided  into  groups  or  septs,  generally  named 
after  plants  or  animals  to  which  they  still  show  reverence. 
Thus  the  Jamania  sept,  named  after  the  jdman  tree,^  will 
not  cut  or  burn  any  part  of  this  tree,  and  at  their  weddings 
the  dresses  of  the  bride  and  bridegroom  are  taken  and 
rubbed  against  the  tree  before  being  worn.  Similarly  the 
Rohini  sept  worship  the  r'o/iau"  tree,  the  Avalia  sept  the 
aonla  ^  tree,  the  Meheda  sept  the  baJicra  ^  tree,  and  so  on. 
The  Mori  sept  worship  the  peacock.  They  go  into  the 
jungle  and  look  for  the  tracks  of  a  peacock,  and  spreading 
a  piece  of  red  cloth  before  the  footprint,  lay  their  offerings 
of  grain  upon  it.  Members  of  this  sept  may  not  be  tattooed, 
because  they  think  the  splashes  of  colour  on  the  peacock's 
feathers  are  tattoo-marks.  Their  women  must  veil  them- 
selves if  they  see  a  peacock,  and  they  think  that  if  any 
member  of  the  sept  irreverently  treads  on  a  peacock's  foot- 
prints he  will  fall  ill.  The  Ghodmarya  (Horse-killer)  sept 
may  not  tame  a  horse  nor  ride  one.  The  Masrya  sept  will 
not  kill  or  eat  fish.  The  Sanyan  or  cat  sept  have  a  tradition 
that  one  of  their  ancestors  was  once  chasing  a  cat,  which 
ran  for  protection  under  a  cover  which  had  been  put  over 
the  stone  figure  of  their  goddess.  The  goddess  turned  the 
cat  into  stone  and  sat  on  it,  and  since  then  members  of  the 
sept  will  not  touch  a  cat  except  to  save  it  from  harm,  and 
they  will  not  eat  anything  which  has  been  touched  by  a  cat. 
The  Ghattaya  sept  worship  the  grinding  mill  at  their  wed- 
dings and  also  on  festival  days.  The  Solia  sept,  whose  name 
is  apparently  derived  from  the  sun,  are  split  up  into  four 
subsepts  :  the  Ada  Solia,  who  hold  their  weddings  at  sunrise  ; 
the  Japa  Solia,  who  hold   them  at  sunset ;   the   Taria   Solia, 

1  Eugenia  jainbolana.  ^  Phyllanthus  et?iblica. 

2  Soymidafebrifuga.  ■*  Terinmalia  belerica. 


who  hold  them  when  stars  have  become  visible  after  sunset  ; 
and  the  Tar  Solia,  who  believe  their  name  is  connected  with 
cotton  thread  and  wrap  several  skeins  of  raw  thread  round 
tlie  bride  and  bridegroom  at  the  wedding  ceremony.  The 
Moharia  sept  worship  the  local  goddess  at  the  village  of 
Moharia  in  Indore  State,  who  is  known  as  the  Moharia 
Mata  ;  at  their  weddings  they  apply  turmeric  and  oil  to  the 
fingers  of  the  goddess  before  rubbing  them  on  the  bride  and 
bridegroom.  The  Maoli  sept  worship  a  goddess  of  that 
name  in  Barwani  town.  Her  shrine  is  considered  to  be  in 
the  shape  of  a  kind  of  grain-basket  known  as  kilia,  and 
members  of  the  sept  may  never  make  or  use  baskets  of  this 
shape,  nor  may  they  be  tattooed  with  representations  of  it. 
Women  of  the  sept  are  not  allowed  to  visit  the  shrine  of 
the  goddess,  but  may  worship  her  at  home.  Several  septs 
have  the  names  of  Rajpiit  clans,  as  Sesodia,  Panwar,  Mori, 
and  appear  to  have  originated  in  mixed  unions  between 
Rajputs  and  Bhils. 

A  man  must  not  marry  in  his  own  sept  nor  in  the  6.  Exo- 
families  of  his  mothers  and  grandmothers.  The  union  of  niTrriage 
first  cousins  is  thus  prohibited,  nor  can  girls  be  exchanged  customs, 
in  marriage  between  two  families.  A  wife's  sister  may  also 
not  be  married  during  the  wife's  lifetime.  The  Muham- 
madan  Bhils  permit  a  man  to  marry  his  maternal  uncle's 
daughter,  and  though  he  cannot  marry  his  wife's  sister  he 
may  keep  her  as  a  concubine.  Marriages  may  be  infant  or 
adult,  but  the  former  practice  is  becoming  prevalent  and 
girls  are  often  wedded  before  they  are  eleven.  Matches  are 
arranged  by  the  parents  of  the  parties  in  consultation  with 
the  caste  pancJidyat ;  but  in  Bombay  girls  may  select  their 
own  husbands,  and  they  have  also  a  recognised  custom  of 
elopement  at  the  Tosina  fair  in  the  month  of  the  Mahi 
Kantha.  If  a  Bhil  can  persuade  a  girl  to  cross  the  river 
there  with  him  he  may  claim  her  as  his  wife  ;  but  if  they 
are  caught  before  getting  across  he  is  liable  to  be  punished 
by  the  bride's  father.^  The  betrothal  and  wedding  cere- 
monies now  follow  the  ordinary  ritual  of  the  middle  and 
lower  castes  in   the  Maratha  country."      The   bride  must   be 

1  Bombay  Gazetteer,  Hindus  of  Gujarat,  p.  309. 
'^  See  article  Kunbi. 

288  BHIL  PART 

younger  than  the  bridegroom  except  in  the  case  of  a  widow. 
A  bride-price  is  paid  which  may  vary  from  Rs.  9  to  20  ;  in 
the  case  of  Muhammadan  Bhils  the  bridegroom  is  said  to 
give  a  dowry  of  Rs.  20  to  25.  When  the  ovens  are  made 
with  the  sacred  earth  they  roast  some  of  the  large  millet 
juari  ^  for  the  family  feast,  calling  this  Juari  Mata  or  the 
grain  goddess.  Offerings  of  this  are  made  to  the  family 
gods,  and  it  is  partaken  of  only  by  the  members  of  the 
bride's  and  bridegroom's  septs  respectively  at  their  houses. 
No  outsider  may  even  see  this  food  being  eaten.  The 
leavings  of  food,  with  the  leaf-plates  on  which  it  was  eaten, 
are  buried  inside  the  house,  as  it  is  believed  that  if  they 
should  fall  into  the  hands  of  any  outsider  the  death  or 
blindness  of  one  of  the  family  will  ensue.  When  the  bride- 
groom reaches  the  bride's  house  he  strikes  the  marriage-shed 
with  a  dagger  or  other  sharp  instrument.  A  goat  is  killed 
and  he  steps  in  its  blood  as  he  enters  the  shed.  A  day  for 
the  wedding  is  selected  by  the  priest,  but  it  may  also  take 
place  on  any  Sunday  in  the  eight  fine  months.  If  the  wed- 
ding takes  place  on  the  eleventh  day  of  Kartik,  that  is  on 
the  expiration  of  the  four  rainy  months  when  marriages  are 
forbidden,  they  make  a  little  hut  of  eleven  stalks  of  juari 
with  their  cobs  in  the  shape  of  a  cone,  and  the  bride  and 
bridegroom  walk  round  this.  The  services  of  a  Brahman 
are  not  required  for  such  a  wedding.  Sometimes  the  bride- 
groom is  simply  seated  in  a  grain  basket  and  the  bride  in 
a  winnowing- fan  ;  then  their  hands  are  joined  as  the  sun 
is  half  set,  and  the  marriage  is  completed.  The  bridegroom 
takes  the  basket  and  fan  home  with  him.  On  the  return  of 
the  wedding  couple,  their  kankans  or  wristbands  are  taken 
off  at  Hanuman's  temple.  The  Muhammadan  BhIls  perform 
the  same  ceremonies  as  the  Hindus,  but  at  the  end  they 
call  in  the  Kazi  or  registrar,  who  repeats  the  Muhammadan 
prayers  and  records  the  dowry  agreed  upon.  The  practice 
of  the  bridegroom  serving  for  his  wife  is  in  force  among  both 
classes  of  Bhils. 
7.  Widow-  The  remarriage  of  widows  is  permitted,  but  the  widow 

marriage,     ^        ^^^   marry   any   relative   of   her    first    husband.      She 

divorce  and  ■'  ■'  ■' 

polygamy,    rctums   to  her   father's  house,  and   on  her  remarriage  they 

'  Sorghian  vulgare. 

II  RELIGION  2  89 

obtain  a  bride -price  of  Rs.  40  or  50,  a  quarter  of  which 
goes  in  a  feast  to  the  tribesmen.  The  wedding  of  a  widow 
is  held  on  the  Amawas  or  last  day  of  the  dark  fortnight  of 
the  month,  or  on  a  Sunday.  A  wife  may  be  divorced  for 
adultery  without  consulting  the  pmichdyat.  It  is  said  that  a 
wife  cannot  otherwise  be  divorced  on  any  account,  nor  can 
a  woman  divorce  her  husband,  but  she  may  desert  him  and 
go  and  live  with  a  man.  In  this  case  all  that  is  necessary 
is  that  the  second  husband  should  repay  to  the  first  as  com- 
pensation the  amount  expended  by  the  latter  on  his  marriage 
with  the  woman.  Polygamy  is  permitted,  and  a  second  wife 
is  sometimes  taken  in  order  to  obtain  children,  but  this 
number  is  seldom  if  ever  exceeded.  It  is  stated  that  the 
Bhil  married  women  are  generally  chaste  and  faithful  to 
their  husbands,  and  any  attempt  to  tamper  with  their  virtue 
on  the  part  of  an  outsider  is  strongly  resented  by  the  man. 

The  Bhlls  worship  the  ordinary  Hindu  deities  and  the  8.  Reii 
village  godlings  of  the  locality.  The  favourite  both  with  ^'°"' 
Hindu  and  Muhammadan  Bhlls  is  Khande  Rao  or  Khandoba, 
the  war-god  of  the  Marathas,  who  is  often  represented  by  a 
sword.  The  Muhammadans  and  the  Hindu  Bhlls  also  to 
a  less  extent  worship  the  Pirs  or  spirits  of  Muhammadan 
saints  at  their  tombs,  of  which  there  are  a  number  in  Nimar. 
Major  Hendley  states  that  in  Mewar  the  seats  or  sthdns  of 
the  Bhil  gods  are  on  the  summits  of  high  hills,  and  are 
represented  by  heaps  of  stones,  solid  or  hollowed  out  in 
the  centre,  or  mere  platforms,  in  or  near  which  are  found 
numbers  of  clay  or  mud  images  of  horses.^  In  some  places 
clay  lamps  are  burnt  in  front  of  the  images  of  horses,  from 
which  it  may  be  concluded  that  the  horse  itself  is  or  was 
worshipped  as  a  god.  Colonel  Tod  states  that  the  Bhlls  will 
eat  of  nothing  white  in  colour,  as  a  white  sheep  or  goat  ; 
and  their  grand  adjuration  is  '  By  the  white  ram.'  ^  Sir 
A.  Lyall  ^  says  that  their  principal  oath  is  by  the  dog.  The 
Bhil  sepoys  told  Major  Hendley  that  they  considered  it  of 
little  use  to  go  on  worshipping  their  own  gods,  as  the  power 
of  these  had  declined  since  the  English  became  supreme. 
They  thought  the   strong   English   gods  were  too  much  for 

^  Loc.  cit.  p.  347.  -    Western  India. 

^  Asiatic  Studies,  ist  series,  p.  174. 

VOL.  II  U 

craft  and 

290  BHIL  PART 

the  weak  deities  of  their  country,  hence  they  were  desirous  of 
embracing  Brahmanism,  which  would  also  raise  them  in  the 
social  scale  and  give  them   a  better  chance  of  promotion  in 
regiments  where  there  were  Brahman  officers. 
9.  Witch-  They  wear  charms  and  amulets  to  keep  off  evil   spirits  ; 

the  charms  are  generally  pieces  of  blue  string  with  seven 
knots  in  them,  which  their  witch- finder  or  Badwa  ties, 
reciting  an  incantation  on  each  ;  the  knots  were  sometimes 
covered  with  metal  to  keep  them  undefiled  and  the  charms 
were  tied  on  at  the  Holi,  Dasahra  or  some  other  festival.^ 
In  Bombay  the  Bhlls  still  believe  in  witches  as  the  agents 
of  any  misfortunes  that  may  befall  them.  If  a  man  was 
sick  and  thought  some  woman  had  bewitched  him,  the 
suspected  woman  was  thrown  into  a  stream  or  swung 
from  a  tree.  If  the  branch  broke  and  the  woman  fell  and 
suffered  serious  injury,  or  if  she  could  not  swim  across  the 
stream  and  sank,  she  was  considered  to  be  innocent  and 
efforts  were  made  to  save  her.  But  if  she  escaped  without 
injury  she  was  held  to  be  a  witch,  and  it  frequently  happened 
that  the  woman  would  admit  herself  to  be  one  either  from 
fear  of  the  infliction  of  a  harder  ordeal,  or  to  keep  up  the 
belief  in  her  powers  as  a  witch,  which  often  secured  her  a 
free  supper  of  milk  and  chickens.  She  would  then  admit 
that  she  had  really  bewitched  the  sick  man  and  undertake 
to  cure  him  on  some  sacrifice  being  made.  If  he  recovered, 
the  animal  named  by  the  witch  was  sacrificed  and  its  blood 
given  her  to  drink  while  still  warm  ;  either  from  fear  or  in 
order  to  keep  up  the  character  she  would  drink  it,  and 
would  be  permitted  to  stay  on  in  the  village.  If,  on  the 
other  hand,  the  sick  person  died,  the  witch  would  often  be 
driven  into  the  forest  to  die  of  hunger  or  to  be  devoured 
by  wild  animals.""'  These  practices  have  now  disappeared 
in  the  Central  Provinces,  though  occasionally  murders  of 
suspected  witches  may  still  occur.  The  BhTls  are  firm 
believers  in  omens,  the  nature  of  which  is  much  the  same 
as  among  the  Hindus.  When  a  Bhil  is  persistently  unlucky 
in  hunting,  he  sometimes  says  '  Nat  laga,'  meaning  that 
some   bad   spirit   is   causing  his    ill-success.       Then    he   will 

'   Asiatic  Studies ,  1st  series,  p.  352. 
2  Bombay  Gazetteer,  Hindus  of  Gujarat,  p.  302. 


make  an  image  of  a  man  in  the  sand  or  dust  of  the  road, 
or  sometimes  two  images  of  a  man  and  woman,  and  throw- 
ing straw  or  grass  over  the  images  set  it  ah'ght,  and  pound 
it  down  on  them  with  a  stick  with  abusive  yells.  This  he 
calls  killing  his  bad  luck.^  Major  Hendley  notes  that  the 
men  danced  before  the  different  festivals  and  before  battles. 
The  men  danced  in  a  ring  holding  sticks  and  striking  them 
against  each  other,  much  like  the  Baiga  dance.  Before 
battle  they  had  a  war-dance  in  which  the  performers  were 
armed  and  imitated  a  combat.  To  be  carried  on  the 
shoulders  of  one  of  the  combatants  was  a  great  honour, 
perhaps  because  it  symbolised  being  on  horseback.  The 
dance  was  probably  in  the  nature  of  a  magical  rite,  designed 
to  obtain  success  in  battle  by  going  through  an  imitation  of 
it  beforehand.  The  priests  are  the  chief  physicians  among 
the  Bhils,  though  most  old  men  were  supposed  to  know 
something  about  medicine." 

The  dead  are  usually  buried  lying  on  the  back,  with  the  10.  Funeral 
head  pointing  to  the  south.  Cooked  food  is  placed  on  the  "^^^' 
bier  and  deposited  on  the  ground  half-way  to  the  cemetery. 
On  return  each  family  of  the  sept  brings  a  wheaten  cake  to 
the  mourners  and  these  are  eaten.  On  the  third  day  they 
place  on  the  grave  a  thick  cake  of  wheaten  flour,  water  in 
an  earthen  pot  and  tobacco  or  any  other  stimulant  which 
the  deceased  was  in  the  habit  of  using  in  his  life. 

The  Hindu  Bhlls  say  that  they  do  not  admit  outsiders  "•  Social 
into  the  caste,  but  the  Muhammadans  will  admit  a  man  of 
any  but  the  impure  castes.  The  neophyte  must  be  shaved 
and  circumcised,  and  the  Kazi  gives  him  some  holy  water  to 
drink  and  teaches  him  the  profession  of  belief  in  Islam.  If 
a  man  is  not  circumcised,  the  Tadvi  or  Muhammadan  Bhils 
will  not  bury  his  body.  Both  classes  of  Bhils  employ 
Brahmans  at  their  ceremonies.  The  tribe  eat  almost  all 
kinds  of  flesh  and  drink  liquor,  but  the  Hindus  now  abjure 
beef  and  the  Muhammadans  pork.  Some  Bhils  now  refuse 
to  take  the  skins  off  dead  cattle,  but  others  will  do  so. 
The  Bhils  will  take  food  from  any  caste  except  the  impure 
ones,  and  none  except  these  castes  will  now  take  food  from 

'  Bombay  Gazetteer,  vol.  xii.  p.  87. 
2  An  Account  of  the  Bhlls,  pp.  362,  363. 


12.  Ap- 
and  char- 

13.  Occu- 

them.  Temporary  or  permanent  exclusion  from  caste  is 
imposed  for  the  same  offences  as  among  the  Hindus. 

The  t}-pical  Bhil  is  small,  dark,  broad-nosed  and  ugly, 
but  well  built  and  active.  The  average  height  of  128  men 
measured  by  Major  Hendley  was  5  feet  6.4  inches.  The 
hands  are  somewhat  small  and  the  legs  fairly  developed, 
those  of  the  women  being  the  best.  "  The  Bhil  is  an 
excellent  woodsman,  knows  the  shortest  cuts  over  the  hills, 
can  walk  the  roughest  paths  and  climb  the  steepest  crags 
without  slipping  or  feeling  distressed.  He  is  often  called  in 
old  Sanskrit  works  Venaputra,  '  child  of  the  forest,'  or  Pal 
Indra,  '  lord  of  the  pass.'  These  names  well  describe  his 
character.  His  country  is  approached  through  narrow 
defiles  (/'c?/),  and  through  these  none  could  pass  without  his 
permission.  In  former  days  he  always  levied  rakhivdli  or 
blackmail,  and  even  now  native  travellers  find  him  quite 
ready  to  assert  what  he  deems  his  just  rights.  The  Bhil 
is  a  capital  huntsman,  tracking  and  marking  down  tigers, 
panthers  and  bears,  knowing  all  their  haunts,  the  best 
places  to  shoot  them,  the  paths  they  take  and  all  those 
points  so  essential  to  success  in  big-game  shooting  ;  they 
will  remember  for  years  the  spots  where  tigers  have  been 
disposed  of,  and  all  the  circumstances  connected  with  their 
deaths.  The  Bhil  will  himself  attack  a  leopard,  and  with 
his  sword,  aided  by  his  friends,  cut  him  to  pieces."  ^  Their 
agility  impressed  the  Hindus,  and  an  old  writer  says : 
"  Some  Bhil  chieftains  who  attended  the  camp  of  Sidhraj, 
king  of  Gujarat,  astonished  him  with  their  feats  of  activity  ; 
in  his  army  they  seemed  as  the  followers  of  Hanuman  in 
attendance  upon  Ram."  ^ 

The  Bhils  have  now  had  to  abandon  their  free  use  of  the 
forests,  which  was  highl)'-  destructive  in  its  effects,  and  their 
indiscriminate  slaughter  of  game.  Many  of  them  live  in  the 
open  country  and  have  become  farmservants  and  field- 
labourers.  A  certain  proportion  are  tenants,  but  very  few- 
own  villages.  Some  of  the  Tadvi  Bhils,  however,  still 
retain  villages  which  were  originally  granted  free  of  revenue 
on  condition  of  their  keeping  the  hill-passes  of  the  Satpijras 

'   Account  of  the  Mewar  Bhils,  pp.  357,  3  5  8. 
^  Forbes,  Rdsmdla,  i.  p.  113. 

II  B  HI  LA  LA  293 

open  and  safe  for  travellers.  These  are  known  as  Hattiwala. 
lihils  also  serve  as  village  watchmen  in  Nimar  and  the 
adjoining  tracts  of  the  Berar  Districts.  Captain  Forsyth, 
writing-  in  1868,  described  the  Bhils  as  follows:  "The 
Muhammadan  Bhils  are  with  few  exceptions  a  miserable  lot, 
idle  and  thriftless,  and  steeped  in  the  deadly  vice  of  opium- 
eating.  The  unconverted  Bhils  are  held  to  be  tolerably 
reliable.  When  they  borrow  money  or  stock  for  cultivation 
they  seldom  abscond  fraudulently  from  their  creditors,  and 
this  simple  honesty  of  theirs  tends,  I  fear,  to  keep  numbers 
of  them  still  in  a  state  little  above  serfdom."  ^ 

The  Bhils  have  now  entirely  abandoned  their  own  m-  Langu 
language  and  speak  a  corrupt  dialect  based  on  the  Aryan  ^^^' 
vernaculars  current  around  them.  The  Bhil  dialect  is 
mainly  derived  from  Gujarati,  but  it  is  influenced  by  Marwari 
and  Marathi  ;  in  Nimar  especially  it  becomes  a  corrupt 
form  of  Marathi.  Bhili,  as  this  dialect  is  called,  contains  a 
number  of  non-Aryan  words,  some  of  which  appear  to  come 
from  the  Mundari,  and  others  from  the  Dravidian  languages  ; 
but  these  are  insufficient  to  form  any  basis  for  a  deduction 
as  to  whether  the  Bhils  belonged  to  the  Kolarian  or 
Dravidian  race." 

Bhilala.^ — A  small  caste  found  in  the  Nimar  and  i-  General 
Hoshangabad  Districts  of  the  Central  Provinces  and  in  "°^''^^- 
Central  India.  The  total  strength  of  the  Bhilalas  is 
about  150,000  persons,  most  of  whom  reside  in  the 
Bhopawar  Agency,  adjoining  Nimar.  Only  15,000  were 
returned  from  the  Central  Provinces  in  191 1.  The 
Bhilalas  are  commonly  considered,  and  the  general  belief 
may  in  their  case  be  accepted  as  correct,  to  be  a  mixed 
caste  sprung  from  the  alliances  of  immigrant  Rajputs  with 
the  Bhils  of  the  Central  India  hills.  The  original  term  was 
not  improbably  Bhilwala,  and  may  have  been  applied  to 
those  Rajput  chiefs,  a  numerous  body,  who  acquired  small 
estates  in  the  Bhil  country,  or  to  those  who  took  the  daughters 
of  Bhil  chieftains  to  wife,  the  second  course  being  often   no 

1  Niindr  Settlement  Report,  i^y^.  2\(},  ^  fhis    article   is    based   mainly  on 

247.  Captain    Forsyth's    Nimar    Settlement 

'^  Sir  G.  Grierson,  Linguistic  Survey  Report,  and    a    paper    by   Mr.   T.    T. 

of  India,  vol.  ix.  part  iii.  pp.  6-9.  Korke,  Pleader,  Khandwa. 

294  BHILALA  part 

doubt  a  necessary  preliminary  to  the  first.  Several  Bhilala 
families  hold  estates  in  Nimar  and  Indore,  and  their  chiefs 
now  claim  to  be  pure  Rajputs.  The  principal  Bhilala  houses, 
as  those  of  Bhamgarh,  Selani  and  Mandhata,  do  not  inter- 
marry with  the  rest  of  the  caste,  but  only  among  themselves 
and  with  other  families  of  the  same  standing  in  Malwa  and 
Holkar's  Nimar.  On  succession  to  the  Gaddi  or  headship  of 
the  house,  representatives  of  these  families  are  marked  with  a 
tlka  or  badge  on  the  forehead  and  sometimes  presented  with 
a  sword,  and  the  investiture  may  be  carried  out  by  custom 
by  the  head  of  another  house.  Bhilala  landholders  usually 
have  the  title  of  Rao  or  Rawat.  They  do  not  admit  that  a 
Bhilala  can  now  spring  from  intermarriage  between  a  Rajput 
and  a  Bhil.  The  local  Brahmans  will  take  water  from  them 
and  they  are  occasionally  invested  with  the  sacred  thread  at 
the  time  of  marriage.  The  Bhilala  Rao  of  Mandhata  is 
hereditary  custodian  of  the  great  shrine  of  Siva  at  Onkar 
Mandhata  on  an  island  in  the  Nerbudda.  According  to  the 
traditions  of  the  family,  their  ancestor,  Bharat  Singh,  was  a 
Chauhan  Rajpiit,  who  took  Mandhata  from  Nathu  Bhil  in 
A.D.  I  165,  and  restored  the  worship  of  Siva  to  the  island, 
which  had  been  made  inaccessible  to  pilgrims  by  the  terrible 
deities,  Kali  and  Bhairava,  devourers  of  human  flesh.  In 
such  legends  may  be  recognised  the  propagation  of  Hinduism 
by  the  Rajpiit  adventurers  and  the  reconsecration  of  the 
aboriginal  shrines  to  its  deities.  Bharat  Singh  is  said  to 
have  killed  Nathu  Bhil,  but  it  is  more  probable  that  he 
only  married  his  daughter  and  founded  a  Bhilala  family. 
Similar  alliances  have  taken  place  among  other  tribes,  as 
the  Korku  chiefs  of  the  Gawilgarh  and  Mahadeo  hills,  and 
the  Gond  princes  of  Garha  Mandla.  The  Bhilalas  generally 
resemble  other  Hindus  in  appearance,  showing  no  marked 
signs  of  aboriginal  descent.  Very  probably  they  have  all 
an  infusion  of  Rajput  blood,  as  the  Rajputs  settled  in  the 
Bhil  country  in  some  strength  at  an  early  period  of  history. 
The  caste  have,  however,  totemistic  group  names  ;  they  will 
eat  fowls  and  drink  liquor  ;  and  they  bury  their  dead  with 
the  feet  to  the  north,  all  these  customs  indicating  a  Dravidian 
origin.  Their  subordinate  position  in  past  times  is  shown 
by  the  fact  that  they  will  accept  cooked  food   from  a  Kunbi 


or  a  Gujar  ;  and  indeed  the  status  of  all  except  the  chiefs 
families  would  naturally  have  been  a  low  one,  as  they  were 
practically  the  offspring  of  kept  women.  As  already  stated, 
the  landowning  families  usually  arrange  alliances  among 
themselves.  Below  these  comes  the  body  of  the  caste  and 
below  them  is  a  group  known  as  the  Chhoti  Tad  or  bastard 
Bhilalas,  to  which  are  relegated  the  progeny  of  irregular 
unions  and  persons  expelled  from  the  caste  for  social 

The  caste,  for  the  purpose  of  avoiding  marriages  between  2.  Mar- 
relations,  are  also  divided  into  exogamous  groups  called  "^^^' 
kul  or  kuri,  several  of  the  names  of  which  are  of  totemistic 
origin  or  derived  from  those  of  animals  and  plants.  Members 
of  the  Jamra  kuri  will  not  cut  or  burn  XhQjdviun  ^  tree  ;  those 
of  the  Saniyar  kuri  will  not  grow  sa7i-\\ers\\y,  while  the 
Astaryas  revere  the  sona  '"^  tree  and  the  Pipaladya,  the  pipal 
tree.  Some  of  the  kuris  have  Rajput  sept  names,  as  Mori, 
Baghel  and  Solanki.  A  man  is  forbidden  to  take  a  wife 
from  within  his  own  sept  or  that  of  his  mother,  and  the 
union  of  first  cousins  is  also  prohibited.  The  customs  of  the 
Bhilalas  resemble  those  of  the  Kunbis  and  other  cultivating 
castes.  At  their  weddings  four  cart-yokes  are  arranged  in  a 
square,  and  inside  this  are  placed  two  copper  vessels  filled 
with  water  and  considered  to  represent  the  Ganges  and 
Jumna.  When  the  sun  is  half  set,  the  bride  and  the  bride- 
groom clasp  hands  and  then  walk  seven  times  round  the 
square  of  cart-yokes.  The  water  of  the  pots  is  mixed  and 
this  is  considered  to  represent  the  mingling  of  the  bride's  and 
bridegroom's  personalities  as  the  Ganges  and  Jumna  meet  at 
Allahabad.  A  sum  of  about  Rs.  60  is  usually  paid  by  the 
parents  of  the  bridegroom  to  those  of  the  bride  and  is 
expended  on  the  ceremony.  The  ordinary  Bhilalas  have, 
Mr.  Korke  states,  a  simple  form  of  wedding  which  may  be 
gone  through  without  consulting  a  Brahman  on  the  Ekadashi 
or  eleventh  of  Kartik  (October)  ;  this  is  the  day  on  which 
the  gods  awake  from  sleep  and  marks  the  commencement 
of  the  marriage  season.  A  cone  is  erected  of  eleven  plants 
of  juari,  roots  and  all,  and  the  couple  simply  walk  round  this 
seven  times  at  night,  when  the  marriage  is  complete.      The 

^  Eugenia  Jambolatia.  2  B  mi  hint  a  raceniosa. 

296  BHILALA  part 

remarriage  of  widows  is  permitted.  The  woman's  forehead 
is  marked  with  cowdung  by  another  widow,  probably  as  a 
rite  of  purification,  and  the  cloths  of  the  couple  are  tied 

The  caste  commonly  bury  the  dead  and  erect  memorial 
stones  at  the  heads  of  graves  which  they  worship  in  the 
month  of  Chait  (April),  smearing  them  with  vermilion  and 
making  an  offering  of  flowers.  This  may  either  be  a 
Dravidian  usage  or  have  been  adopted  by  imitation  from 
the  Muhammadans.  The  caste  worship  the  ordinary  Hindu 
deities,  but  each  family  has  a  Kul-devi  or  household  god, 
Mr.  Korke  remarks,  to  which  they  pay  special  reverence. 
The  offerings  made  to  the  Kul-devi  must  be  consumed  by 
the  family  alone,  but  married  daughters  are  allowed  to 
participate.  They  employ  Nimari  Brahmans  as  their  priests, 
and  also  have  gurus  or  spiritual  preceptors,  who  are  Gosains 
or  Bairagis.  They  will  take  food  cooked  with  water  from 
Brahmans,  Rajputs,  Munda  Gujars  and  Tirole  Kunbis.  The 
last  two  groups  are  principal  agricultural  castes  of  the 
locality  and  the  Bhilalas  are  probably  employed  by  them 
as  farmservants,  and  hence  accept  cooked  food  from  their 
masters  in  accordance  with  a  common  custom.  The  local 
Brahmans  of  the  Nagar,  Naramdeo,  Balsa  and  other  subcastes 
will  take  water  from  the  hand  of  a  Bhilala.  Temporary  ex- 
communication from  caste  is  imposed  for  the  usual  offences, 
such  as  going  to  jail,  getting  maggots  in  a  wound,  killing 
a  cow,  a  dog  or  a  squirrel,  committing  homicide,  being 
beaten  by  a  man  of  low  caste,  selling  shoes  at  a  profit, 
committing  adultery,  and  allowing  a  cow  to  die  with  a  rope 
round  its  neck  ;  and  further,  for  touching  the  corpses  of  a 
cow,  cat  or  horse,  or  a  Barhai  (carpenter)  or  Chamar 
(tanner).  They  will  not  swear  by  a  dog,  a  cat  or  a  squirrel, 
and  if  either  of  the  first  two  animals  dies  in  a  house,  it  is 
considered  to  be  impure  for  a  month  and  a  quarter.  The 
head  of  the  caste  committee  has  the  designation  of  Mandloi, 
which  is  a  territorial  title  borne  by  several  families  in 
Nimar.  He  receives  a  share  of  the  fine  levied  for  the  Sarni 
or  purification  ceremony,  when  a  person  temporarily  expelled 
is  readmitted  into  caste.  Under  the  Mandloi  is  the  Kotwal 
whose    business    is    to  summon   the    members    to   the   caste 

1 1  occur  A  TION  A  ND  CHA  RA  CTER  297 

assemblies  ;   he   also  is   paid   out   of  the   fines  and    his  office 
is  hereditary. 

The  caste  are  cultivators,  farmservants  and  field-labourers,  4.  Occupa- 
and  a  Bhilala  also  usually  held  the  office  of  Mankar,  a  ch"rrcter. 
superior  kind  of  Kotwar  or  village  watchman.  The  Mankar 
did  no  dirty  work  and  would  not  touch  hides,  but  attended 
on  any  officer  who  came  to  the  village  and  acted  as  a  guide. 
Where  there  was  a  village  sarai  or  rest-house,  it  was  in 
charge  of  the  Mankar,  who  was  frequently  also  known  as 
zamindar.  This  may  have  been  a  recognition  of  the  ancient 
rights  of  the  Bhilalas  and  Bhils  to  the  country. 

Captain  Forsyth,  Settlement  Officer  of  Nimar,  had  a  5.  Char- 
very  unfavourable  opinion  of  the  Bhilalas,  whom  he  described 
as  proverbial  for  dishonesty  in  agricultural  engagements  and 
worse  drunkards  than  any  of  the  indigenous  tribes.^  This 
judgment  was  probably  somewhat  too  severe,  but  they  are 
poor  cultivators,  and  a  Bhilala's  field  may  often  be  recognised 
by  its  slovenly  appearance.^ 

A  century  ago  Sir  J.  Malcolm  also  wrote  very  severely 
of  the  Bhilalas  :  "  The  Bhilala  and  Lundi  chiefs  were  the 
only  robbers  in  Malwa  whom  under  no  circumstances 
travellers  could  trust.  There  are  oaths  of  a  sacred  but 
obscure  kind  among  those  that  are  Rajputs  or  who  boast 
their  blood,  which  are  almost  a  disgrace  to  take,  but  which, 
they  assert,  the  basest  was  never  known  to  break  before 
Mandrup  Singh,  a  Bhilala,  and  some  of  his  associates, 
plunderers  on  the  Nerbudda,  showed  the  example.  The 
vanity  of  this  race  has  lately  been  flattered  by  their  having 
risen  into  such  power  and  consideration  that  neighbouring 
Rajput  chiefs  found  it  their  interest  to  forget  their  prejudices 
and  to  condescend  so  far  as  to  eat  and  drink  with  them. 
Hatti  Singh,  Grassia  chief  of  Nowlana,  a  Khichi  Rajput,  and 
several  others  in  the  vicinity  cultivated  the  friendship  of 
Nadir,  the  late  formidable  Bhilala  robber-chief  of  the  Vindhya 
range  ;  and  among  other  sacrifices  made  by  the  Rajputs,  was 
eating  and  drinking  with  him.  On  seeing  this  take  place  in 
my  camp,  I  asked  Hatti  Singh  whether  he  was  not  degraded 
by  doing  so  ;  he  said  no,  but  that  Nadir  was  elevated." " 

1   Settlement    Report    (1869),    para.        7ncnt  Report. 
411.  •'*   Memoir  of   Central  India,   ii.    p. 

^   Mr.  Montgomerie's  Ninidr  Settle-        156. 


Bhishti. — A  small  Muhammadan  caste  of  water-bearers. 
Only  26  Bhishtis  were  shown  in  the  Central  Provinces  in 
1 90 1  and  278  in  1891.  The  tendency  of  the  lower 
Muhammadan  castes,  as  they  obtain  some  education,  is  to 
return  themselves  simply  as  Muhammadans,  the  caste  name 
being  considered  derogatory.  The  Bhishtis  are,  however, 
a  regular  caste  numbering  over  a  lakh  of  persons  in  India, 
the  bulk  of  whom  belong  to  the  United  Provinces.  Many 
of  them  are  converts  from  Hinduism,  and  they  combine 
Hindu  and  Muhammadan  practices.  They  have  gotras 
or  exogamous  sections,  the  names  of  which  indicate  the 
Hindu  origin  of  their  members,  as  Huseni  Brahman,  Samri 
Chauhan,  Bahmangour  and  others.  They  prohibit  marriage 
within  the  section  and  within  two  degrees  of  relationship  on 
the  mother's  side.  Marriages  are  performed  by  the  Muham- 
madan ritual  or  Nikah,  but  a  Brahman  is  sometimes  asked 
to  fix  the  auspicious  day,  and  they  erect  a  marriage-shed. 
The  bridegroom  goes  to  the  bride's  house  riding  on  a  horse, 
and  when  he  arrives  drops  Rs.  1-4  into  a  pot  of  water  held 
by  a  woman.  The  bride  whips  the  bridegroom's  horse 
with  a  switch  made  of  flowers.  During  the  marriage  the 
bride  sits  inside  the  house  and  the  bridegroom  in  the  shed 
outside.  An  agent  or  Vakil  with  two  witnesses  goes 
to  the  bride  and  asks  her  whether  she  consents  to 
marry  the  bridegroom,  and  when  she  gives  her  consent, 
as  she  always  does,  they  go  out  and  formally  communi- 
cate it  to  the  Kazi.  The  dowry  is  then  settled,  and  the 
bond  of  marriage  is  sealed.  But  when  the  parents  of 
the  bride  are  poor  they  receive  a  bride -price  of  Rs.  "i^o^ 
from  which  they  pay  the  dowry.  The  Bhishtis  worship 
their  leather  bag  {inashk)  as  a  sort  of  fetish,  and  burn 
incense  before  it  on  Fridays.^  The  traditional  occupation 
of  the  Bhishti  is  to  supply  water,  and  he  is  still  engaged  in 
this  and  other  kinds  of  domestic  service.  The  name  is  said 
to  be  derived  from  the  Persian  bihisht,  'paradise,'  and  to  have 
been  given  to  them  on  account  of  the  relief  which  their 
ministrations  afforded  to  the  thirsty  soldiery."  Perhaps, 
too,  the  grandiloquent  name  was   applied   partly  in  derision, 

'   Crooke's  Tribes  and  Castes,  art.  Bhishti. 
^  Elliott's  Metnoi7-s  of  I  he  Noflh-PVestern  Provinces,  i.  p.  191. 

II  nmsfrri  299 

like  similar  titles  given  to  other  menial  servants.  'I'hey 
are  also  known  as  Mashki  o/  Pakliali,  after  their  leathern 
water-bag.  The  leather  bag  is  a  distinctive  sign  of  the 
Bhishti,  but  when  he  puts  it  away  he  may  be  recognised 
from  the  piece  of  red  cloth  which  he  usually  wears  round 
his  waist.  There  is  an  interesting  legend  to  the  effect 
that  the  Bhishti  who  saved  the  Emperor  Humayun's  life  at 
Chausa,  and  was  rewarded  by  the  tenure  of  the  Imperial 
throne  for  half  a  day,  employed  his  short  lease  of  power  by 
providing  for  his  family  and  friends,  and  caused  his  leather 
bag  to  be  cut  up  into  rupees,  which  were  gilded  and  stamped 
with  the  record  of  his  date  and  reign  in  order  to  perpetuate 
its  memory.^  The  story  of  the  Bhishti  obtaining  his  name  on 
account  of  the  solace  which  he  afforded  to  the  Muhammadan 
soldiery  finds  a  parallel  in  the  case  of  the  English  army  : 

The  uniform  'e  wore 

Was  nothin'  much  before, 

An'  rather  less  than  'arf  o'  that  be'ind, 

For  a  piece  o'  twisty  rag 

An'  a  goatskin  water-bag 

Was  all  the  field-equipment  'e  could  find. 

With  'is  mussick  on  'is  back, 

'E  would  skip  with  our  attack. 

An'  watch  us  till  the  bugles  made  '  Retire,' 

An'  for  all  'is  dirty  'ide 

'E  was  white,  clear  white,  inside 

When  'e  went  to  tend  the  wounded  under  fire.'-^ 

An  excellent  description  of  the  Bhishti  as  a  household 
servant  is  contained  in  Eha's  Behind  the  Bungalow'^  from 
which  the  following  extract  is  taken  :  "  If  you  ask  :  Who 
is  the  Bhishti  ?  I  will  tell  you.  Bihisht  in  the  Persian 
tongue  means  Paradise,  and  a  Bihishtee  is  therefore  an 
inhabitant  of  Paradise,  a  cherub,  a  seraph,  an  angel  of  mercy. 
He  has  no  wings  ;  the  painters  have  misconceived  him  ;  but 
his  back  is  bowed  down  with  the  burden  of  a  great  goat-skin 
swollen  to  bursting  with  the  elixir  of  life.  He  walks  the 
land  when  the  heaven  above  him  is  brass  and  the  earth  iron, 
when  the  trees  and  shrubs  are  languishing  and  the  last  blade 

^  Crooke's  Tribes  atid  Castes,  ii.  p.       Ballads,  '  Gunga  Din.' 
100.  ^   Thacker  and  Co.,  London. 

"   Kudyard    Kipling,    Barrack- Roooi 


of  grass  has  given  up  the  struggle  for  life,  when  the  very 
roses  smell  only  of  dust,  and  all  day  long  the  roaming  dust- 
devils  waltz  about  the  fields,  whirling  leaf  and  grass  and  corn- 
stalk round  and  round  and  up  and  away  into  the  regions  of 
the  sky  ;  and  he  unties  a  leather  thong  which  chokes  the 
throat  of  his  goat-skin  just  where  the  head  of  the  poor  old 
goat  was  cut  off,  and  straightway,  with  a  life- reviving  gurgle, 
the  stream  called  thandha  pdni  gushes  forth,  and  plant  and 
shrub  lift  up  their  heads  and  the  garden  smiles  again.  The 
dust  also  on  the  roads  is  laid,  and  a  grateful  incense  rises 
from  the  ground,  the  sides  of  the  water  chatti  grow  dark  and 
moist  and  cool  themselves  in  the  hot  air,  and  through  the 
dripping  interstices  of  the  khaskJias  tattie  a  chilly  fragrance 
creeps  into  the  room,  causing  the  mercury  in  the  thermometer 
to  retreat  from  its  proud  place.  I  like  the  Bhishti  and 
respect  him.  As  a  man  he  is  temperate  and  contented, 
eating  bdjri  bread  and  slaking  his  thirst  with  his  own  element. 
And  as  a  servant  he  is  laborious  and  faithful,  rarely  shirking 
his  work,  seeking  it  out  rather.  For  example,  we  had  a 
bottle-shaped  filter  of  porous  stoneware,  standing  in  a  bucket 
of  water  which  it  was  his  duty  to  fill  daily  ;  but  the  good 
man,  not  content  with  doing  his  bare  duty,  took  the  plug 
out  of  the  filter  and  filled  it  too.  And  all  the  station  knows 
how  assiduously  he  fills  the  rain-gauge."  With  the  con- 
struction of  water -works  in  large  stations  the  Bhishti  is 
losing  his  occupation,  and  he  is  a  far  less  familiar  figure  to 
the  present  generation  of  Anglo-Indians  than  to  their  pre- 

Origin  Bhoyar/  Bhoir  (Honorific  titles,  Mahajan  and  Patel). — 

A  cultivating  caste  numbering  nearly  60,000  persons  in  191 1, 
and  residing  principally  in  the  Betul  and  Chhindwara  Districts. 
The  Bhoyars  are  not  found  outside  the  Central  Provinces, 
They  claim  to  be  the  descendants  of  a  band  of  Panwar 
Rajputs,  who  were  defending  the  town  of  Dharanagri  or 
Dhar  in  Central  India  when  it  was  besieged  by  Aurangzeb. 
Their  post  was  on  the  western  part  of  the  wall,  but  they  gave 
way  and  fled  into  the  town   as  the  sun   was  rising,  and   it 

'   This    article    is    mainly    compiled       man  Bakre,  pleader,  Betul,  and  Munshi 
from  papers  by  Mr.  Pandurang  Laksh-       Pyare  Lai,  ethnographic  clerk. 


ir  B J 10  YAK  301 

shone  on  their  faces.  Hence  they  were  called  lihoyar  from 
a  word  blior  meaning  morning,  because  they  were  seen 
running  away  in  the  morning.  They  were  put  out  of  caste  by 
the  other  Rajputs,  and  fled  to  the  Central  Provinces.  The 
name  may  also  be  a  variant  of  that  of  the  Bhagore  Rajputs. 
And  another  derivation  is  from  bhora,  a  simpleton  or  timid 
person.  Their  claim  to  be  immigrants  from  Central  India 
is  borne  out  by  the  fact  that  they  still  speak  a  corrupt  form 
of  the  Malvvi  dialect  of  Rajputana,  which  is  called  after  them 
Bhoyari,  and  their  Bhats  or  genealogists  come  from  Malwa. 
But  they  have  now  entirely  lost  their  position  as  Rajputs. 

The  Bhoyars  are  divided   into  the  Panwari,   Dholewar,  2.  Suh- 
Chaurasia   and   Daharia    subcastes.      The    Panwars    are    the  '^^^'^^  ^^^ 


most  numerous  and  the  highest,  as  claiming  to  be  directly 
descended  from  Panwar  Rajputs.  They  sometimes  called 
themselves  Jagdeo  Panwars,  Jagdeo  being  the  name  of  the 
king  under  whom  they  served  in  Dharanagri.  The  Dholewars 
take  their  name  from  Dhola,  a  place  in  Malwa,  or  from  dJioL, 
a  drum.  They  are  the  lowest  subcaste,  and  some  of  them 
keep  pigs.  It  is  probable  that  these  subcastes  immigrated 
with  the  Malwa  Rajas  in  the  fifteenth  century,  the  Dholewars 
being  the  earlier  arrivals,  and  having  from  the  first  intermarried 
with  the  local  Dravidian  tribes.  The  Daharias  take  their 
name  from  Dahar,  the  old  name  of  the  Jubbulpore  country, 
and  may  be  a  relic  of  the  domination  of  the  Chedi  kings  of 
Tewar.  The  name  of  the  Chaurasias  is  probably  derived 
from  the  Chaurasi  or  tract  of  eighty-four  villages  formerly 
held  by  the  Betul  Korku  family  of  Chandu.  The  last  two 
subdivisions  are  numerically  unimportant.  The  Bhoyars 
have  over  a  hundred  kuls  or  exogamous  sections.  The 
names  of  most  of  these  are  titular,  but  some  are  territorial 
and  a  few  totemistic.  Instances  of  such  names  are  Onkar 
(the  god  Siva),  Deshmukh  and  Chaudhari,  headman,  Hazari 
(a  leader  of  1000  horse).  Gore  (fair-coloured),  Dongardiya 
(a  lamp  on  a  hill),  Pinjara  (a  cotton -cleaner),  Gadria  (a 
shepherd),  Khaparia  (a  tyler),  Khawasi  (a  barber),  Chiknya 
(a  sycophant),  Kinkar  (a  slave),  Dukhi  (penurious),  Suplya 
toplya  (a  basket  and  fan  maker),  Kasai  (a  butcher),  Gohattya 
(a  cow -killer),  and  Kalebhut  (black  devil).  Among  the 
territorial  sections  may  be  mentioned  Sonpuria,  from  Sonpur, 

302  BHOYAR  part 

and  Patharia,  from  the  hill  country.  The  name  Badnagrya 
is  also  really  territorial,  being  derived  from  the  town  of 
Badnagar,  but  the  members  of  the  section  connect  it  with 
the  bad  or  banyan  tree,  the  leaves  of  which  they  refrain  from 
eating.  Two  other  totemistic  gotras  are  the  Baranga  and 
Baignya,  derived  from  the  bdraiig  plant  {Kydia  calycind)  and 
from  the  brinjal  respectively.  Some  sections  have  the  names 
of  Rajput  septs,  as  Chauhan,  Parihar  and  Pan  war.  This 
curiously  mixed  list  of  family  names  appears  to  indicate  that 
the  Bhoyars  originate  from  a  small  band  of  Rajputs  who 
must  have  settled  in  the  District  about  the  fifteenth  century 
as  military  colonists,  and  taken  their  wives  from  the  people 
of  the  country.  They  may  have  subsequently  been  recruited 
by  fresh  bands  of  immigrants  who  have  preserved  a  slightly 
higher  status.  They  have  abandoned  their  old  high  position, 
and  now  rank  below  the  ordinary  cultivating  castes  like 
Kunbis  and  Kurmis  who  arrived  later  ;  while  the  caste  has 
probably  in  times  past  also  been  recruited  to  a  considerable 
extent  by  the  admission  of  families  of  outsiders. 
3.  Mar-  Marriage  within   the  kid  or   family   group   is   forbidden, 

as  also  the  union  of  first  cousins.  Girls  are  usually 
married  young,  and  sometimes  infants  of  one  or  two  months 
are  given  in  wedlock,  while  contracts  of  betrothal  are  made 
for  unborn  children  if  they  should  be  of  the  proper  sex,  the 
mother's  womb  being  touched  with  kunku  or  red  powder 
to  seal  the  agreement.  A  small  dej  or  price  is  usually  paid 
for  the  bride,  amounting  to  Rs.  5  with  240  lbs.  of  grain, 
and  8  seers  of  ght  and  oil.  At  the  betrothal  the  Joshi  or 
astrologer  is  consulted  to  see  whether  the  names  of  the 
couple  make  an  auspicious  conjunction.  He  asks  for  the 
names  of  the  bride  and  bridegroom,  and  if  these  are  found 
to  be  inimical  another  set  of  names  is  given,  and  the 
experiment  is  continued  until  a  union  is  obtained  which 
is  astrologically  auspicious.  In  order  to  provide  for  this 
contingency  some  Bhoyars  give  their  children  ten  or  twelve 
names  at  birth.  If  all  the  names  fail,  the  Joshi  invents  new 
ones  of  his  own,  and  in  some  way  brings  about  the  auspicious 
union  to  the  satisfaction  of  both  parties,  who  consider  it  no 
business  of  theirs  to  pry  into  the  Joshi's  calculations  or  to 
question   his   methods.      After  the  marriage-shed   is  erected 




the  family  god  must  be  invoked  to  be  present  at  the 
ceremony.  He  is  asked  to  come  and  take  his  seat  in  an 
earthen  pot  containing  a  h'ghted  wick,  the  pot  being  sup- 
ported on  a  toy  chariot  made  of  sticks.  A  thread  is  coiled 
round  the  neck  of  the  jar,  and  the  Bhoyars  then  place  it  in 
the  middle  of  the  house,  confident  that  the  god  has  entered 
it,  and  will  ward  off  all  calamities  during  the  marriage. 
This  is  performed  by  the  bJidtnvar  ceremony,  seven  earthen 
pots  being  placed  in  a  row,  while  the  bride  and  bridegroom 
walk  round  in  a  circle  holding  a  basket  with  a  lighted  lamp 
in  it.  As  each  circle  is  completed,  one  pot  is  removed. 
This  always  takes  place  at  night.  The  Dholewars  do  not 
perform  the  hJiCunvar  ceremony,  and  simply  throw  sacred 
rice  on  the  couple,  and  this  is  also  done  in  Wardha. 
Sometimes  the  Bhoyars  dispense  with  the  presence  of  the 
Brahman  and  merely  get  some  rice  and  juari  consecrated  by 
him  beforehand,  which  they  throw  on  the  heads  of  the 
couple,  and  thereupon  consider  the  marriage  complete. 
Weddings  are  generally  held  in  the  bright  fortnight  of 
Baisakh  (April— May),  and  sometimes  can  be  completed  in  a 
single  day.  Widow-marriage  is  allowed,  but  it  is  considered 
that  the  widow  should  marry  a  widower  and  not  a  bachelor. 

The  regular  occupation  of  the  Bhoyars  is  agriculture,  4.  Occupa- 
and  they  are  good  cultivators,  growing  much  sugar-cane  ''°"- 
with  well  -  irrigation.  They  are  industrious,  and  their 
holdings  on  the  rocky  soils  of  the  plateau  Districts  are 
often  cleared  of  stones  at  the  cost  of  much  labour.  Their 
women  work  in  the  fields.  In  Betijl  they  have  the  reputation 
of  being  much  addicted  to  drink. 

They  do  not  now  admit  outsiders,  but  their  family  5.  Social 
names  show  that  at  one  time  they  probably  did  so,  and  this  ^^-'^tus. 
laxity  of  feeling  survives  in  the  toleration  with  which  they 
readmit  into  caste  a  woman  who  has  gone  wrong  with  an 
outsider.  They  eat  flesh  and  fowls,  and  the  Dholewars  eat 
pork,  while  as  already  stated  they  are  fond  of  liquor.  To 
have  a  shoe  thrown  on  his  house  by  a  caste-fellow  is  a 
serious  degradation  for  a  Bhoyar,  and  he  must  break  his 
earthen  pots,  clean  his  house  and  give  a  feast.  To  be 
beaten  with  a  shoe  by  a  low  caste  like  Mahar  entails  shaving 
the  moustaches  and  paying  a  heavy  fine,  which  is  spent  on  a 

304  BHOYAR  part  ii 

feast.  The  Bhoyars  do  not  take  food  from  any  caste  but 
Brahmans,  but  no  caste  higher  than  Kunbis  and  Mails  will 
take  water  from  them.  In  social  status  they  rank  somewhat 
below  Kunbis.  In  appearance  they  are  well  built,  and  often 
of  a  fair  complexion.  Unmarried  girls  generally  wear  skirts 
instead  of  sdj'is  or  cloths  folding  between  the  legs  ;  they  also 
must  not  wear  toe-rings.  Women  of  the  Panwar  subcaste 
wear  glass  bangles  on  the  left  hand,  and  brass  ones  on  the 
right.  All  women  are  tattooed.  They  both  burn  and  bury 
the  dead,  placing  the  corpse  on  the  pyre  with  its  head  to  the 
south  or  west,  and  in  Wardha  to  the  north.  Here  they  have 
a  peculiar  custom  as  regards  mourning,  which  is  observed 
only  till  the  next  Monday  or  Thursday  whichever  falls  first. 
Thus  the  period  of  mourning  may  extend  from  one  to  four 
days.  The  Bhoyars  are  considered  in  Wardha  to  be  more 
than  ordinarily  timid,  and  also  to  be  considerable  simpletons, 
while  they  stand  in  much  awe  of  Government  officials,  and 
consider  it  a  great  misfortune  to  be  brought  into  a  court  of 
justice.      Very  few  of  them  can  read  and  write. 

tribe  and 
its  name. 



1 .  The  tribe  and  its  fiame.  7 .    Tribal  subdivisions. 

2.  Distribution  of  t/ie  tribe.  8.  E.xogamous  septs. 

3.  Example  0/  the  position  0/ the        9.   Marriage  customs. 

aborigines  in  Hi7idu  society.  i  o.    Widow-marriage  and  divorce. 

4.  The  Bhuiyas  a  Kolarian  tribe.        1 1 .   Religion. 

5.  The  Baigas  and  the  Bhuiyas.       12.   Religious  dancing. 

Chhattisgarh  the  home  of  the       1  3.   Funeral  rites  and  inheritance. 
Baigas.  14.  Physical  appearatice  atid  occu- 

6.  The   Baigas    a    branch    of  the  paiion. 

Bhuiyas.  i  5.   Social  customs. 

Bhuiya,  Bhuinhar,  Bhumia/ — The  name  of  a  very  i.  The 
important  tribe  of  Chota  Nagpur,  Bengal  and  Orissa.  The 
Bhuiyas  numbered  more  than  22,000  persons  in  the  Central 
Provinces  in  1911,  being  mainly  found  in  the  Sarguja  and 
Jashpur  States.  In  Bengal  and  Bihar  the  Bhuiyas  proper 
count  about  half  a  million  persons,  while  the  Musahar  and 
Khandait  castes,  both  of  whom  are  mainly  derived  from  the 
Bhuiyas,  total  together  well  over  a  million. 

The  name  Bhuiya  means  '  Lord  of  the  soil,'  or  *  Belong- 
ing to  the  soil,'  and  is  a  Sanskrit  derivative.  The  tribe  have 
completely  forgotten  their  original  name,  and  adopted  this 
designation  conferred  on  them  by  the  immigrant  Aryans.  The 
term  Bhuiya,  however,  is  also  employed  by  other  tribes  and 
by  some  Hindus  as  a  title  for  landholders,  being  practically 
equivalent  to  zamindar.  And  hence  a  certain  confusion 
arises,  and  classes  or  individuals  may  have  the  name  of 
Bhuiya  without   belonging    to  the  tribe  at   all.      "  In   most 

^  This  article  is  compiled  partly  from       furnished    by    Mr.    B.    C.    Mazumdar, 
Colonel   Dal  ton's  Ethnology  of  Bengal       pleader,    Sambalpur,    and     papers    by 
and  Sir  H.  Risley's  Tribes  and  Castes  of      Mr.    A.    B.    Napier,   Deputy  Commis- 
Bengal ;   a   monograph  has  also  been       sioner,  Raipur,  and  Mr.  Hira  Lai. 
VOL.  II  305  X 

3o6  BHUIYA  part 

parts  of  Chota  Nagpur,"  Sir  H.  Risley  says,  "  there  is  a  well- 
known  distinction  between  a  Bhuiya  by  tribe  and  a  Bhuiya 
by  title.  The  Bhuiyas  of  Bonai  and  Keonjhar  described  by 
Colonel  Dalton  belong  to  the  former  category  ;  the  Bhuiya 
Mundas  and  Oraons  to  the  latter.  The  distinction  will  be 
made  somewhat  clearer  if  it  is  explained  that  every  '  tribal 
Bhuiya '  will  as  a  matter  of  course  describe  himself  as 
Bhuiya,  while  a  member  of  another  tribe  will  only  do  so  if 
he  is  speaking  with  reference  to  a  question  of  land,  or  desires 
for  some  special  reason  to  lay  stress  on  his  status  as  a  land- 
holder or  agriculturist." 

We  further  find  in  Bengal  and  Benares  a  caste  of  land- 
holders known  as  Bhuinhar  or  Babhan,  who  are  generally 
considered  as  a  somewhat  mixed  and  inferior  group  of 
Brahman  and  Rajput  origin.  Both  Sir  H.  Risley  and  Mr. 
Crooke  adopt  this  view  and  deny  any  connection  between 
the  Bhuinhars  and  the  Bhuiya  tribes.  Babhan  appears  to 
be  a  corrupt  form  of  Brahman.  Mr.  Mazumdar,  however, 
states  that  Bhuiya  is  never  used  in  Bengali  as  an  equivalent 
for  zamlndar  or  landholder,  and  he  considers  that  the 
Bhuinhars  and  also  the  Barah  Bhuiyas,  a  well-known  group 
of  twelve  landholders  of  Eastern  Bengal  and  Assam,  belonged 
to  the  Bhuiya  tribe.  He  adduces  from  Sir  E.  Gait's  History 
of  Assa})i  the  fact  that  the  Chutias  and  Bhuiyas  were 
dominant  in  that  country  prior  to  its  conquest  by  the 
Ahoms  in  the  thirteenth  century,  and  considers  that  these 
Chutias  gave  their  name  to  Chutia  or  Chota  Nagpur.  I  am 
unable  to  express  any  opinion  on  Mr.  Mazumdar's  argument, 
and  it  is  also  unnecessary  as  the  question  does  not  concern 
the  Central  Provinces. 
Distribu-  The  principal  home  of  the  Bhuiya  tribe  proper  is  the 

south  of  the  Chota  Nagpur  plateau,  comprised  in  the  Gang- 
pur,  Bonai,  Keonjhar  and  Bamra  States.  "  The  chiefs  of 
these  States,"  Colonel  Dalton  says,  "  now  call  themselves 
Rajputs  ;  if  they  be  so,  they  are  strangely  isolated  families 
of  Rajputs.  The  country  for  the  most  part  belongs  to  the 
Bhuiya  sub-proprietors.  They  are  a  privileged  class,  holding 
as  hereditaments  the  principal  offices  of  the  State,  and  are 
organised  as  a  body  of  militia.  The  chiefs  have  no  right  to 
exercise   any  authority  till    they  have    received   the   tilak  or 

tion  of  the 

II  DISTRfllUriON  OF  THE  TRIliE  307 

token  of  invcstituic  from  their  powerful  Bhuiya  vassals. 
Their  position  altogether  renders  their  claim  to  be  con- 
sidered Rajputs  extremely  doublful,  and  the  stcjries  told  to 
account  for  their  acquisition  of  the  dignity  are  palpable 
fables.  They  were  no  doubt  all  Bhuiyas  originally  ;  they 
certainly  do  not  look  like  Rajputs."  Members  of  the  tribe 
are  the  household  servants  of  the  Bamra  Raja's  family,  and 
it  is  said  that  the  first  Raja  of  Bamra  was  a  child  of  the 
Patna  house,  who  was  stolen  from  his  home  and  anointed 
king  of  Bamra  by  the  Bhuiyas  and  Khonds.  Similarly 
Colonel  Dalton  records  the  legend  that  the  Bhuiyas  twenty- 
seven  generations  ago  stole  a  child  of  the  Moharbhanj  Raja's 
famil)',  brought  it  up  amongst  them  and  made  it  their  Raja. 
He  was  freely  admitted  to  intercourse  with  Bhuiya  girls,  and 
the  children  of  this  intimacy  are  the  progenitors  of  the 
Rajkuli  branch  of  the  tribe.  But  they  are  not  considered 
first  among  Bhuiyas  because  they  are  not  of  pure  Bhuiya 
descent.  Again  the  Raja  of  Keonjhar  is  always  installed 
by  the  Bhuiyas.  These  facts  indicate  that  the  Bhuiyas  were 
once  the  rulers  of  Chota  Nagpur  and  are  recognised  as  the 
oldest  inhabitants  of  the  country.  From  this  centre  they 
have  spread  north  through  Lohardaga  and  Hazaribagh  and 
into  southern  Bihar,  where  large  numbers  of  Bhuiyas  are 
encountered  on  whom  the  opprobrious  designation  of  Musahar 
or  'rat-eater'  has  been  conferred  by  their  Hindu  neighbours. 
Others  of  the  tribe  who  travelled  south  from  Chota  Nagpur 
experienced  more  favourable  conditions,  and  here  the 
tendency  has  been  for  the  Bhuiyas  to  rise  rather  than  to 
decline  in  social  status.  "  Some  of  their  leading  families," 
Sir  H.  Risley  states,  "  have  come  to  be  chiefs  of  the  petty 
States  of  Orissa,  and  have  now  sunk  the  Bhuiya  in  the 
Khandait  or  swordsman,  a  caste  of  admitted  respectability 
in  Orissa  and  likely  in  course  of  time  to  transform  itself  into 
some  variety  of  Rajput." 

The  ^varying   status   of    the    Bhuiyas    in    Bihar,    Chota  3.  Example 
Nagpur  and  Orissa  is  a  good  instance  of  the  different  ways  ^q^Ij^qj^  of 
in  which  the  primitive  tribes  have  fared  in  contact  with  the  the  abori- 
immigrant  Aryans.     Where  the  country  has  been  completely  fi^ndu" 
colonised  and  populated  by  Hindus,  as  in  Bihar,  the  aboriginal  society, 
residents   have   commonly  become   transformed   into   village 

3o8  BHUIYA  part 

drudges,  relegated  to  the  meanest  occupations,  and  despised 
as  impure  by  the  Hindu  cultivators,  like  the  Chamars  of 
northern  India  and  the  Mahars  of  the  Maratha  Districts. 
Where  the  Hindu  immigration  has  only  been  partial  and 
the  forests  have  not  been  cleared,  as  in  Chota  Nagpur  and 
the  Central  Provinces,  they  may  keep  their  old  villages 
and  tribal  organisation  and  be  admitted  as  a  body  into  the 
hierarchy  of  caste,  ranking  above  the  impure  castes  but 
below  the  Hindu  cultivators.  This  is  the  position  of  the 
Gonds,  Baigas  and  other  tribes  in  these  tracts.  While,  if 
the  Hindus  come  only  as  colonists  and  not  as  rulers,  the 
indigenous  residents  may  retain  the  overlordship  of  the  soil 
and  the  landed  proprietors  among  them  may  be  formed  into 
a  caste  ranking  with  the  good  cultivating  castes  of  the 
Aryans.  Instances  of  such  are  the  Khandaits  of  Orissa, 
the  Binjhwars  of  Chhattlsgarh  and  the  Bhilalas  of  Nimar 
and  Indore. 
4.  The  The    Bhuiyas    have    now    entirely    forgotten    their   own 

Bhuiyas  a    lancruage  and  speak  Hindi,  Uriya  and  Bengali,  according  as 

Kolanan  fc>       &  r  >  ^  t-?      1  •    1  1 

tribe.  each  is  the  dommant  vernacular  of  their  Hmdu  neighbours. 

They  cannot  therefore  on  the  evidence  of  language  be 
classified  as  a  Munda  or  Kolarian  or  as  a  Dravidian  tribe. 
Colonel  Dalton  was  inclined  to  consider  them  as  Dravidian  :  ^ 
"  Mr.  Stirling  in  his  account  of  Orissa  classes  them  among 
the  Kols  ;  but  there  are  no  grounds  that  I  know  of  for  so 
connecting  them.  As  I  have  said  above,  they  appear  to  me 
to  be  linked  with  the  Dravidian  rather  than  with  the 
Kolarian  tribes."  His  account,  however,  does  not  appear  to 
contain  any  further  evidence  in  support  of  this  view  ;  and, 
on  the  other  hand,  he  identifies  the  Bhuiyas  with  the  Savars 
or  Saonrs.  Speaking  of  the  Bendkars  or  Savars  of 
Keonjhar,  he  says  :  "  It  is  difficult  to  regard  them  otherwise 
than  as  members  of  the  great  Bhuiya  family,  and  thus 
connecting  them  we  link  the  Bhuiyas  and  Savaras  and  give 
support  to  the  conjecture  that  the  former  are  Dravidian." 
But  it  is  now  shown  in  the  Linguistic  Survey  that  the 
Savars  have  a  Munda  dialect.  In  Chota  Nagpur  this  has 
been  forgotten,  and  the  tribe  speak  Hindi  or  Uriya  like  the 
Bhuiyas,  but  it  remains   in  the  hilly  tracts  of  Ganjam  and 

1  Ethnology  of  Bengal,  p.  140. 


Vizagapatam.'  Savara  is  closely  related  to  Kharia  and 
Juang,  the  dialects  of  two  of  the  most  primitive  Munda 
tribes.  The  Savars  must  therefore  be  classed  as  a  Munda 
or  Kolarian  tribe,  and  since  Colonel  Dalton  identified  the 
Bhuiyas  with  the  Savars  of  Chota  Nagpur,  his  evidence 
appears  really  to  be  in  favour  of  the  Kolarian  origin  of  the 
Bhuiyas.  He  notes  further  that  the  ceremony  of  naming 
children  among  the  Bhuiyas  is  identical  with  that  of  the 
Mundas  and  Hos."  Mr.  Mazumdar  writes :  "  Judging 
from  the  external  appearance  and  general  physical  type  one 
would  be  sure  to  mistake  a  Bhuiya  for  a  Munda.  Their 
habits  and  customs  are  essentially  Mundari.  The  Bhuiyas 
who  live  in  and  around  the  District  of  Manbhum  are  not 
much  ashamed  to  admit  that  they  are  Kol  people  ;  and 
Bhumia  Kol  is  the  name  that  has  been  given  them  there 
by  the  Hindus.  The  Mundas  and  Larka-Kols  of  Chota 
Nagpur  tell  us  that  they  first  established  themselves  there 
by  driving  out  the  Bhuiyas  ;  and  it  seems  likely  that  the 
Bhuiyas  formed  the  first  batch  of  the  Munda  immigrants  in 
Chota  Nagpur  and  became  greatly  Hinduised  there,  and  on 
that  account  were  not  recognised  by  the  Mundas  as  people 
of  their  kin."  If  the  tradition  of  the  Mundas  and  Kols  that 
they  came  to  Chota  Nagpur  after  the  Bhuiyas  be  accepted, 
and  tradition  on  the  point  of  priority  of  immigration  is 
often  trustworthy,  then  it  follows  that  the  Bhuiyas  must  be 
a  Munda  tribe.  For  the  main  distinction  other  than  that  of 
language  between  the  Munda  and  Dravidian  tribes  is  that 
the  former  were  the  earlier  and  the  latter  subsequent 
immigrants.  The  claim  of  the  Bhuiyas  to  be  the  earliest 
residents  of  Chota  Nagpur  is  supported  by  the  fact  that 
they  officiate  as  priests  in  certain  temples.  Because  in 
primitive  religion  the  jurisdiction  of  the  gods  is  entirely 
local,  and  foreigners  bringing  their  own  gods  with  them  are 
ignorant  of  the  character  and  qualities  of  the  local  deities, 
with  which  the  indigenous  residents  are,  on  the  other  hand, 
well  acquainted.  Hence  the  tendency  of  later  comers  to 
employ  these  latter  in  the  capacity  of  priests  of  the  godlings 
of  the  earth,  corn,  forests  and  hills.     Colonel  Dalton  writes  :  ^ 

1   Linguistic  Survey,  vol.  xiv.  Mtnida  and  Dravidian  Languages,  p.  217. 
2  Page  142.  3  Ibidem,  p.  141. 


"  It  is  strange  that  these  Hinduised  Bhuiyas  retain  in 
their  own  hands  the  priestly  duties  of  certain  old  shrines  to 
the  exclusion  of  Brahmans.  This  custom  has  no  doubt 
descended  in  Bhuiya  families  from  the  time  when  Brahmans 
were  not,  or  had  obtained  no  footing  amongst  them,  and 
when  the  religion  of  the  land  and  the  temples  were  not 
Hindu  ;  they  are  now  indeed  dedicated  to  Hindu  deities, 
but  there  are  evidences  of  the  temples  having  been  originally 
occupied  by  other  images.  At  some  of  these  shrines  human 
sacrifices  were  offered  every  third  year  and  this  continued 
till  the  country  came  under  British  rule."  And  again  of 
the  Pauri  Bhuiyas  of  Keonjhar :  "  The  Pauris  dispute  with 
the  Juangs  the  claim  to  be  the  first  settlers  in  Keonjhar, 
and  boldly  aver  that  the  country  belongs  to  them.  They 
assert  that  the  Raja  is  of  their  creation  and  that  the  prero- 
gative of  installing  every  new  Raja  on  his  accession  is  theirs, 
and  theirs  alone.  The  Hindu  population  of  Keonjhar  is  in 
excess  of  the  Bhuiya  and  it  comprises  Gonds  and  Kols,  but 
the  claim  of  the  Pauris  to  the  dominion  they  arrogate  is 
admitted  by  all ;  even  Brahmans  and  Rajputs  respectfully 
acknowledge  it,  and  the  former  by  the  addition  of  Brah- 
manical  rites  to  the  wild  ceremonies  of  the  Bhuiyas  affirm 
and  sanctify  their  installation."  In  view  of  this  evidence  it 
seems  a  probable  hypothesis  that  the  Bhuiyas  are  the 
earliest  residents  of  these  parts  of  Chota  Nagpur  and  that 
they  are  a  Kolarian  tribe. 

There  appears  to  be  considerable  reason  for  supposing 
that  the  Baiga  tribe  of  the  Central  Provinces  are  really  a 
branch  of  the  Bhuiyas.  Though  the  Baigas  are  now 
mainly  returned  from  Mandla  and  Balaghat,  it  seems  likely 
that  these  Districts  were  not  their  original  home,  and  that 
they  emigrated  from  Chhattlsgarh  into  the  Satpura  hills  on 
the  western  borders  of  the  plain.  The  hill  country  of 
Mandla  and  the  Maikal  range  of  Balaghat  form  one  of  the 
wildest  and  most  inhospitable  tracts  in  the  Province,  and  it 
is  unlikely  that  the  Baigas  would  have  made  their  first 
settlements  here  and  spread  thence  into  the  fertile  plain  of 
Chhattlsgarh.  Migration  in  the  opposite  direction  would  be 
more  natural  and  probable.  But  it  is  fairly  certain  that  the 
Baiga    tribe    were    among    the    earliest    if    not    the   earliest 


residents  of  the  ChhattTsii^arh  plain  and  the  hills  north  and 
east  of  it.  The  IMiaina,  Bhunjia  and  Binjhwar  tribes  who 
still  reside  in  this  country  can  all  be  recognised  as  offshoots 
of  the  Raigas.  In  the  article  on  Bhaina  it  is  shown  that 
some  of  the  oldest  forts  in  Bilaspur  are  attributed  to  the 
Bhainas  and  a  chief  of  this  tribe  is  remembered  as  having 
ruled  in  Bilaigarh  south  of  the  Mahfinadi,  They  arc  said 
to  have  been  dominant  in  Pendra  where  they  arc  still  most 
numerous,  and  to  have  been  expelled  from  Phuljhar  in 
Raipur  by  the  Gonds.  The  Binjhwars  or  Binjhals  again 
are  an  aristocratic  subdivision  of  the  Baigas,  belonging  to 
the  hills  east  of  Chhattlsgarh  and  the  Uriya  plain  country  of 
Sambalpur  beyond  them.  The  zamlndfirs  of  Bodasamar, 
Rampur,  Bhatgaon  and  other  estates  to  the  south  and  east 
of  the  Chhattlsgarh  plain  are  members  of  this  tribe.  Both 
the  Bhainas  and  Binjhwars  are  frequently  employed  as 
priests  of  the  village  deities  all  over  this  area,  and  may 
therefore  be  considered  as  older  residents  than  the  Gond 
and  Kawar  tribes  and  the  Hindus.  Sir  G.  Grierson  also 
states  that  the  language  of  the  Baigas  of  Mandla  and 
Balaghat  is  a  form  of  Chhattisgarhi,  and  this  is  fairly  con- 
clusive evidence  of  their  first  having  belonged  to  Chhat- 
tlsgarh.^ It  seems  not  unlikely  that  the  Baigas  retreated 
into  the  hills  round  Chhattlsgarh  after  the  Hindu  invasion 
and  establishment  of  the  Haihaya  Rajput  dynasty  of  Ratan- 
pur,  which  is  now  assigned  to  the  ninth  century  of  the 
Christian  era  ;  just  as  the  Gonds  retired  from  the  Nerbudda 
valley  and  the  Nagpur  plain  before  the  Hindus  several 
centuries  later.  Sir  H.  Risley  states  that  the  Binjhias  or 
Binjhwars  of  Chota  Nagpur  say  that  their  ancestors  came 
from  Ratanpur  twenty  generations  ago." 

But  the  Chhattlsgarh  plain  and  the  hills  north  and  east  6.  The 
of  it  are  adjacent  to  and  belong  to  the  same  tract  of  country  branch  ^ 
as  the  Chota   Nagpur   States,  which  are  the  home  of  the  of  the 
Bhuiyas,      Sir    H.    Risley    gives    Baiga    as    a    name    for    a      "'^^^' 
sorcerer,  and  as  a  synonym  or  title  of  the  Khairwar  tribe  in 
Chota    Nagpur,   possibly  having   reference   to   the   idea   that 

1  In  the  article  on  Binjhwar,  it  was       But  the  evidence  adduced  ahove  appears 
supposed  that  the  Baigas  migrated  east       to  show  that  this  view  is  incorrect, 
from  the  Satpura  hills  into  Chhattlsgarh.  '-'   Tribes  and  Castes,  zx\..  Binjhia. 


they,  being  among  the  original  inhabitants  of  the  country, 
are  best  qualified  to  play  the  part  of  sorcerer  and  propitiate 
the  local  gods.  It  has  been  suggested  in  the  article  on 
Khairvvar  that  that  tribe  are  a  mongrel  offshoot  of  the 
Santals  and  Cheros,  but  the  point  to  be  noticed  here  is  the 
use  of  the  term  Baiga  in  Chota  Nagpur  for  a  sorcerer  ;  and 
a  sorcerer  may  be  taken  as  practically  equivalent  for  a 
priest  of  the  indigenous  deities,  all  tribes  who  act  in  this 
capacity  being  considered  as  sorcerers  by  the  Hindus.  If 
the  Bhuiyas  of  Chota  Nagpur  had  the  title  of  Baiga,  it  is 
possible  that  it  may  have  been  substituted  for  the  proper 
tribal  name  on  their  migration  to  the  Central  Provinces. 
Mr.  Crooke  distinguishes  two  tribes  in  Mirzapur  whom  he 
calls  the  Bhuiyas  and  Bhuiyars.  The  Bhuiyas  of  Mirzapur 
seem  to  be  clearly  a  branch  of  the  Bhuiya  tribe  of  Chota 
Nagpur,  with  whom  their  section -names  establish  their 
identity.^  Mr.  Crooke  states  that  the  Bhuiyas  are  dis- 
tinguished with  very  great  difficulty  from  the  Bhuiyars  with 
whom  they  are  doubtless  very  closely  connected.^  Of  the 
Bhuiyars  ^  he  writes  that  the  tribe  is  also  known  as  Baiga, 
because  large  numbers  of  the  aboriginal  local  priests  are 
derived  from  this  caste.  He  also  states  that  "  Most  Bhuiyars 
are  Baigas  and  officiate  in  their  own  as  well  as  allied  tribes  ; 
in  fact,  as  already  stated,  one  general  name  for  the  tribe  is 
Baiga."  ^  It  seems  not  unlikely  that  these  Bhuiyars  are  the 
Baigas  of  the  Central  Provinces  and  that  they  went  to 
Mirzapur  from  here  with  the  Gonds.  Their  original  name 
may  have  been  preserved  or  revived  there,  while  it  has 
dropped  out  of  use  in  this  Province.  The  name  Baiga  in 
the  Central  Provinces  is  sometimes  applied  to  members  of 
other  tribes  who  serve  as  village  priests,  and,  as  has  already 
been  seen,  it  is  used  in  the  same  sense  in  Chota  Nagpur. 
The  Baigas  of  Mandla  are  also  known  as  Bhumia,  which  is 
only  a  variant  of  Bhuiya,  having  the  same  meaning  of  lord 
of  the  soil  or  belonging  to  the  soil.  Both  Bhuiya  and 
Bhumia  are  in  fact  nearly  equivalent  to  our  word 
'  aboriginal,'  and  both  are  names  given  to  the   tribe  by  the 

^  Crooke,    l^ribes    and    Castes,   art.  '  Ibidem,  ail.  Bhuiyar,  para.   i. 

Bhuiya,  para.  4. 

-  Ibidem,  para.  3.  <  Ibid£in,  para.   16. 


Hindus  and  not  originally  tiiat  by  which  its  members  called 
themselves.  It  would  be  quite  natural  that  a  branch  of  the 
Bhuiyas,  who  settled  in  the  Central  Provinces  and  were 
commonly  employed  as  village  priests  by  the  Hindus  and 
Gonds  should  have  adopted  the  name  of  the  office,  Baiga, 
as  their  tribal  designation  ;  just  as  the  title  of  Munda  or 
village  headman  has  become  the  name  of  one  branch  of  the 
Kol  tribe,  and  Bhumij,  another  term  equivalent  to  Bhuiya, 
of  a  second  branch.  Mr.  A.  F.  Hewitt,  Settlement  Officer 
of  Raipur,  considered  that  the  Buniyas  of  that  District  were 
the  same  tribe  as  the  Bhuiyas  of  the  Garhjiit  States.^  By 
Buniya  he  must  apparently  have  meant  the  Bhunjia  tribe  of 
Raipur,  who  as  already  stated  are  an  offshoot  of  the  Baigas. 
Colonel  Dalton  describes  the  dances  of  the  Bhuiyas  of  Chota 
Nagpur  as  follows  :  ^  "  The  men  have  each  a  wide  kind  of 
tambourine.  They  march  round  in  a  circle,  beating  these 
and  singing  a  ver}^  simple  melody  in  a  minor  key  on  four 
notes.  The  women  dance  opposite  to  them  with  their  heads 
covered  and  bodies  much  inclined,  touching  each  other  like 
soldiers  in  line,  but  not  holding  hands  or  wreathing  arms  like 
the  Kols."  This  account  applies  very  closely  to  the  Sela 
and  Rina  dances  of  the  Baigas.  The  Sela  dance  is  danced 
by  men  only  w^io  similarly  march  round  in  a  circle,  though 
they  do  not  carry  tambourines  in  the  Central  Provinces. 
Here,  however,  they  sometimes  carry  sticks  and  march  round 
in  opposite  directions,  passing  in  and  out  and  hitting  their 
sticks  against  each  other  as  they  meet,  the  movement  being 
exactly  like  the  grand  chain  in  the  Lancers.  Similarly  the 
Baiga  women  dance  the  Rina  dance  by  themselves,  standing 
close  to  each  other  and  bending  forward,  but  not  holding 
each  other  by  the  hands  and  arms,  just  as  described  by 
Colonel  Dalton.  The  Gonds  now  also  have  the  Sela  and 
Rina  dances,  but  admit  that  they  are  derived  from  the 
Baigas.  Another  point  of  some  importance  is  that  the 
Bhuiyas  of  Chota  Nagpur  and  the  Baigas  and  the  tribes 
derived  from  them  in  the  Central  Provinces  have  all  com- 
pletely abandoned  their  own  language  and  speak  a  broken 
form  of  that  of  their  Hindu  neighbours.  As  has  been  seen, 
too,  the  Bhuiyas  are  commonly  employed  as  priests  in  Chota 

'   Dalton,  p.   147.  -   Page  142. 



7.  Tribal 



Xagpur,  and  there  seems  therefore  to  be  a  strong  case  for 
the  original  identity  of  the  two  tribes.^  Both  the  Baigas 
and  Bhuiyas,  however,  have  now  become  greatly  mixed  with 
the  surrounding  tribes,  the  Baigas  of  Mandla  and  Balaghat 
having  a  strong  Gond  element. 

In  Singhbhum  the  Bhuiyas  call  themselves  Pdivan-bans 
or  '  The    Children  of    the  Wind,'  and    in  connection    with 
Hanuman's  title  of  Pdivan-ka-pTit  or  '  The  Son  of  the  Wind,' 
are  held  to  be  the  veritable  apes  of  the  Ramayana  who,  under 
the  leadership  of   Hanuman,  the   monkey-god,  assisted    the 
Aryan  hero  Rama  on  his  expedition  to  Ceylon.      This  may 
be  compared    with    the    name    given   to   the   Gonds    of  the 
Central  Provinces  of  Rawanbansi,  or  descendants  of  Rawan, 
the    idea  being    that  their    ancestors  were    the   subjects    of 
Rawan,  the  demon  king  of  Ceylon,  who  was  conquered  by 
Rama.      "  All  Bhuiyas,"  Sir   H.  Risley  states,  "  affect  great 
reverence  for  the  memory  of  Rikhmun  or  Rikhiasan,  whom 
they  regard,  some  as  a   patron  deity,  others  as  a   mythical 
ancestor,  whose   name  distinguishes   one  of  the  divisions  of 
the   tribe.      It  seems  probable   that  in  the  earliest   stage  of 
belief  Rikhmun  v\-as  the  bear-totem  of  a  sept  of  the  tribe, 
that  later  on  he  was  transformed  into  an  ancestral  hero,  and 
finally  promoted  to  the  rank  of  a  tribal  god."      The  Rikhiasan 
Mahatwar  subtribe  of  the  Bhuiyas  in  the  Central  Provinces 
are    named    after    this    hero    Rikhmun  ;  the    designation    of 
Mahatwar  signifies  that  they  are  the  Mahtos  or  leaders  of 
the  Bhuiyas.      The  Khandaits  or  Paiks  are  another  subcaste 
formed  from  those  who  became  soldiers  ;  in  Orissa  they  are 
now,  as  already  stated,  a  separate  caste  of  fairly  high  rank. 
The   Parja    or  '  subject   people '   are  the  ordinary    Bhuiyas, 
probably  those  living  in  Hindu  tracts.      The  Dhur  or  '  dust ' 
Gonds,  and  the  Parja  Gonds  of  Bastar  may  be  noted  as  a 
parallel    in    nomenclature.      The    Rautadi    are    a   territorial 
group,  taking  their  name  from  a  place  called  Raotal.      The 
Khandaits    practise    hypergamy    with    the    Rautadi,    taking 
daughters  from  them,  but  not  giving  their  daughters  to  them. 
The  Pabudia  or  Madhai  are  the  hill   Bhuiyas,  and  are  the 

1  The  question  of  the  relation  of  the 
Baiga  tribe  to  Mr.  Crooke's  Bhuiyars 
was  first  raised  by  Mr.  E.  A.  H.  Blunt, 

Census    Superintendent,    United    Pro- 


most  wild  and  backward  portion  of  the  tribe.  Dalton  writes 
of  them  in  Keonjhar  :  "  They  arc  not  bound  to  fi;4ht  for 
the  Raja,  though  they  occasionally  take  up  arms  against 
him.  Their  duty  is  to  attend  on  him  and  carry  his  loads 
when  he  travels  about,  and  so  long  as  they  are  satisfied  with 
his  person  and  his  rule,  no  more  willing  or  devoted  subjects 
could  be  found.  They  arc  then  in  Keonjhar,  as  in  Bonai,  a 
race  whom  you  cannot  help  liking  and  taking  an  interest  in 
from  the  primitive  simplicity  of  their  customs,  their  amena- 
bility and  their  anxiety  to  oblige  ;  but  unsophisticated  as 
they  are  they  wield  an  extraordinary  power  in  Keonjhar, 
and  when  they  take  it  into  their  heads  to  use  that  power, 
the  country  may  be  said  to  be  governed  by  an  oligarchy 
composed  of  the  sixty  chiefs  of  the  Pawri  Desh,  the  Bhuiya 
Highlands.  A  knotted  string  passed  from  village  to  village 
in  the  name  of  the  sixty  chiefs  throws  the  entire  country  into 
commotion,  and  the  order  verbally  communicated  in  connec- 
tion with  it  is  as  implicitly  obeyed  as  if  it  emanated  from 
the  most  potent  despot."  This  knotted  string  is  known  as 
GnntJii.  The  Pabudias  say  that  their  ancestors  were  twelve 
brothers  belonging  to  Keonjhar,  of  whom  eight  went  to  an 
unknown  country,  while  the  remaining  four  divided  among 
themselves  all  the  territory  of  which  they  had  knowledge, 
this  being  comprised  in  the  four  existing  states  of  Keonjhar, 
Bamra,  Palahara  and  Bonai.  Any  Pabudia  who  takes  up  his 
residence  permanently  beyond  the  boundaries  of  these  four 
states  is  considered  to  lose  his  caste,  like  Hindus  in  former 
times  who  went  to  dwell  in  the  foreign  country  beyond  the 
Indus.^  But  if  the  wandering  Pabudia  returns  in  two  years, 
and  proves  that  he  has  not  drunk  water  from  any  other  caste, 
he  is  taken  back  into  the  fold.  Other  subdivisions  are  the 
Kati  or  Khatti  and  the  Bathudia,  these  last  being  an  inferior 
group  who  are  said  to  be  looked  down  on  because  they  have 
taken  food  from  other  low  castes.  No  doubt  they  are  really 
the  offspring  of  irregular  unions. 

In   Raigarh  the  Bhuiyas  appear  to  have  no  exogamous  s.  Exo- 
divisions.      When    they   wish    to    arrange    a    marriage    they  ^^^^ 
compare  the  family  gods  of  the  parties,  and  if  these  are  not 
identical  and  there  is  no  recollection  of  a  common  ancestor 

1   Mr.  Mazunidar's  monograph. 


for  three  generations,  the  union  is  permitted.  In  Sambalpur, 
however,  Mr.  Mazumdar  states,  all  Bhuiyas  are  divided  into 
the  following  twelve  septs  :  Thakur,  or  the  clan  of  royal 
blood  ;  Saont,  from  sdmanta,  a  viceroy  ;  Padhan,  a  village 
headman  ;  Naik,  a  military  leader  ;  Kalo,  a  wizard  or  priest ; 
Dehri,  also  a  priest  ;  Chatria,  one  who  carried  the  royal 
umbrella  ;  Sahu,  a  moneylender  ;  Majhi,  a  headman  ;  Behra, 
manager  of  the  household  ;  Amata,  counsellor  ;  and  Dand- 
sena,  a  police  official.  The  Dehrin  sept  still  worship  the 
village  gods  on  behalf  of  the  tribe. 

Marriage  is  adult,  but  the  more  civilised  Bhuiyas  are 
gradually  adopting  Hindu  usages,  and  parents  arrange 
matches  for  their  children  while  they  are  still  young. 
Among  the  Pabudias  some  primitive  customs  survive.  They 
have  the  same  system  as  the  Oraons,  by  which  all  the 
bachelors  of  the  village  sleep  in  one  large  dormitory  ;  this  is 
known  as  Dhangarbasa,  dhdngar  meaning  a  farmservant  or 
young  man,  or  Mandarghar,  the  house  of  the  drums,  because 
these  instruments  are  kept  in  it.  "  Some  villages,"  Colonel 
Dalton  states,  "  have  a  Dhangaria  basa,  or  house  for  maidens, 
which,  strange  to  say,  they  are  allowed  to  occupy  without  any 
one  to  look  after  them.  They  appear  to  have  very  great 
liberty,  and  slips  of  morality,  so  long  as  they  are  confined  to 
the  tribe,  are  not  much  heeded."  This  intimacy  between 
boys  and  girls  of  the  same  village  does  not,  however, 
commonly  end  in  marriage,  for  which  a  partner  should  be 
sought  from  another  village.  For  this  purpose  the  girls  go 
in  a  body,  taking  with  them  some  ground  rice  decorated 
with  flowers.  They  lay  this  before  the  elders  of  the  village 
they  have  entered,  saying,  '  Keep  this  or  throw  it  into  the 
water,  as  you  prefer.'  The  old  men  pick  up  the  flowers, 
placing  them  behind  their  ears.  In  the  evening  all  the  boys 
of  the  village  come  and  dance  with  the  girls,  with  intervals 
for  courtship,  half  the  total  number  of  couples  dancing  and 
sitting  out  alternately.  This  goes  on  all  night,  and  in  the 
morning  any  couples  who  have  come  to  an  understanding 
run  away  together  for  a  day  or  two.  The  boy's  father  niust 
present  a  rupee  and  a  piece  of  cloth  to  the  girl's  mother,  and 
the  marriage  is  considered  to  be  completed. 

Among  the  Pabudia  or  Madhai  Bhuiyas  the  bride-price 


consists  of  two  bullocks  or  cows,  one  of  which  is  given  to  the 
girl's  father  and  the  other  to  her  brother.  The  boy's  father 
makes  the  proposal  for  marriage,  and  the  consent  of  the  girl 
is  necessary.  At  the  wedding  turmeric  and  rice  are  offered 
to  the  sun  ;  some  rice  is  then  placed  on  the  girl's  head  and 
turmeric  rubbed  on  her  body,  and  a  brass  ring  is  placed  on 
her  finger.  The  bridegroom's  father  says  to  him,  "  This  girl 
is  ours  now  :  if  in  future  she  becomes  one-eyed,  lame  or  deaf, 
she  will  still  be  ours."  The  ceremony  concludes  with  the 
usual  feast  and  drinking  bout.  If  the  boy's  father  cannot 
afford  the  bride-price  the  couple  sometimes  run  away  from 
home  for  two  or  three  days,  when^  their  parents  go  in  search 
of  them  and  they  are  brought  back  and  married  in  the  boy's 

A  widow  is  often  taken  by  the  younger  brother  of  the  10.  Widow- 
deceased    husband,  though    no  compulsion   is  exerted   over  ^rid"^^^ 
her.      But  the  match  is  common  because  the  Bhuiyas  have  divorce, 
the  survival  of  fraternal  polyandry,  which  consists  in  allow- 
ing unmarried  younger  brothers  to  have  access  to  an  elder 
brother's  wife  during  his  lifetime.^      Divorce   is   allowed   for 
misconduct  on  the  part  of  the  wife  or  mutual  disagreement. 

The  Bhuiyas  commonly  take  as  their  principal  deity  the  n.  Reii- 
spirit  of  the  nearest  mountain  overlooking  their  village,  and  S'°"' 
make  offerings  to  it  of  butter,  rice  and  fowls.  In  April  they 
present  the  first-fruits  of  the  mango  harvest.  They  venerate 
the  sun  as  Dharam  Deota,  but  no  offerings  are  made  to 
him.  Nearly  all  Bhuiyas  worship  the  cobra,  and  some  of 
them  call  it  their  mother  and  think  they  are  descended 
from  it.  They  will  not  touch  or  kill  a  cobra,  and  do  not 
swear  by  it.  In  Rairakhol  they  venerate  a  goddess,  Rambha 
Devi,  who  may  be  a  corn-goddess,  as  the  practice  of  burning 
down  successive  patches  of  jungle  and  sowing  seed  on  each 
for  two  or  three  years  is  here  known  as  rambha.  They 
think  that  the  sun  and  moon  are  sentient  beings,  and  that 
fire  and  lightning  are  the  children  of  the  sun,  and  the  stars 
the  children  of  the  moon.  One  day  the  moon  invited  the 
sun  to  dinner  and  gave  him  very  nice  food,  so  that  the  sun 
asked  what  it  was.  The  moon  said  she  had  cooked  her 
own  children,  and  on  this  the  sun  went  home  and  cooked  all 

^  From  Mr.  Mazumdar's  monograph. 


his  children  and  ate  them,  and  this  is  the  reason  why  there 
are  no  stars  during  the  day.  But  his  eldest  son,  fire,  went 
and  hid  in  a  rengal  tree,  and  his  daughter,  the  lightning, 
darted  hither  and  thither  so  that  the  sun  could  not  catch 
her.  And  when  night  came  again,  and  the  stars  came  out, 
the  sun  saw  how  the  moon  had  deceived  him  and  cursed 
her,  saying  that  she  should  die  for  fifteen  days  in  every 
month.  And  this  is  the  reason  for  the  waxing  and  waning 
of  the  moon.  Ever  since  this  event  fire  has  remained  hidden 
in  a  rengal  tree,  and  when  the  Bhuiyas  want  him  they  rub 
two  pieces  of  its  wood  together  and  he  comes  out.  This  is 
the  Bhuiya  explanation  of  the  production  of  fire  from  the 
friction  of  wood. 

In  the  month  of  Kartik  (October),  or  the  next  month, 
they  bring  from  the  forest  a  branch  of  the  karin  tree  and 
venerate  it  and  perform  the  karma  dance  in  front  of  it. 
They  think  that  this  worship  and  dance  will  cause  the 
karma  tree,  the  mango,  the  jack-fruit  and  the  mahua  to 
bear  a  full  crop  of  fruit.  Monday,  Wednesday  and  Friday 
are  considered  the  proper  days  for  worshipping  the  deities, 
and  children  are  often  named  on  a  Friday. 

The  dead  are  either  buried  or  burnt,  the  corpse  being 
placed  always  with  the  feet  pointing  to  its  native  village. 
On  the  tenth  day  the  soul  of  the  dead  person  is  called  back 
to  the  house.  But  if  a  man  is  killed  by  a  tiger  or  by  falling 
from  a  tree  no  mourning  is  observed  for  him,  and  his  soul  is 
not  brought  back.  To  perish  from  snake-bite  is  considered 
a  natural  death,  and  in  such  cases  the  usual  obsequies  are 
awarded.  This  is  probably  because  they  revere  the  cobra 
as  their  first  mother.  The  Pabudia  Bhuiyas  throw  four  to 
eight  annas'  worth  of  copper  on  to  the  pyre  or  into  the  grave, 
and  if  the  deceased  had  a  cow  some  ghi  or  melted  butter. 
No  division  of  property  can  take  place  during  the  lifetime  of 
either  parent,  but  when  both  have  died  the  children  divide 
the  inheritance,  the  eldest  son  taking  two  shares  and  the 
others  one  equal  share  each. 
14.  Physi-  Colonel    Dalton    describes    the    Bhuiyas    as,    "  A    dark- 

cai  appear-  bfown,    well -proportioned    race,    with    black,    straight    hair, 

ance  and  >  1       x  o 

occupation,  plentiful  on  the  head,  but  scant  on  the  face,  of  middle  height, 
figures  well  knit  and   capable  of  enduring  great  fatigue,  but 

ri  lUWIJA  319 

li^ht-fnimcd  likt>  the  lUiulu  rather  tliaii  i)re.seiitiiii^  the  usual 
muscuhir  development  of  the  hillman."  Their  dress  is 
scanty,  and  in  the  Tributary  States  Dalton  says  that  the 
men  and  women  all  wear  dresses  of  brown  cotton  cloth. 
This  may  be  because  white  is  a  very  conspicuous  colour  in 
the  forests.  They  wear  ornaments  and  beads,  and  are  dis- 
tinctive in  that  neither  men  nor  women  practise  tattooini^, 
though  in  some  localities  this  rule  is  not  observed  by  the 
women.  To  keep  themselves  warm  at  night  they  kindle 
two  fires  and  sleep  between  them,  and  this  custom  has  given 
rise  to  the  saying,  '  Wherever  you  see  a  Bhuiya  he  always 
has  a  fire.'  In  Bamra  the  Bhuiyas  still  practise  shifting 
cultivation,  for  which  they  burn  the  forest  growth  from  the 
hillsides  and  sow  oilseeds  in  the  fresh  soil.  This  method 
of  agriculture  is  called  locally  Khasrathumi.  They  obtain 
their  lands  free  from  the  Raja  in  return  for  acting  as  luggage 
porters  and  coolies.  In  Bamra  they  will  not  serve  as  farm- 
servants  or  labourers  for  hire,  but  elsewhere  they  are  more 

A  woman   divorced   for   adultery  is   not   again   admitted  '^S-  Social 

TT  11  1      •         -11  customs. 

to  caste  mtercourse.  Her  parents  take  her  to  their  village, 
where  she  has  to  live  in  a  separate  hut  and  earn  her  own 
livelihood.  If  any  Bhuiya  steals  from  a  Kol,  Ganda  or 
Ghasia  he  is  permanently  put  out  of  caste,  while  for  killing 
a  cow  the  period  of  expulsion  is  twelve  years.  The  emblem 
of  the  Bhuiyas  is  a  sword,  in  reference  to  their  employment 
as  soldiers,  and  this  they  affix  to  documents  in  place  of  their 

Bhulia,^  Bholia,  Bhoriya,  Bholwa,  Mihir,  Mehar. — A 

caste  of  weavers  in  the  Uriya  country.  In  1901  the 
Bhulias  numbered  26,000  persons,  but  with  the  transfer  of 
Sambalpur  and  the  Uriya  States  to  Bengal  this  figure  has 
been  reduced  to  5000.  A  curious  fact  about  the  caste  is 
that  though  solely  domiciled  in  the  Uriya  territories,  many 
families  belonging  to  it  talk  Hindi  in  their  own  houses. 
According  to  one  of  their  traditions  they  immigrated  to 
this  part  of  the  country  with  the  first  Chauhan  Raja  of 
Patna,    and    it    may    be    that   they    are    members    of    some 

^   This  article  is  compiled  from  a  paper  taken  by  Mr.  Hira  Lai  at  Sonpur. 


northern  caste  who  have  forgotten  their  origin  and  taken 
to  a  fresh  calling  in  the  land  of  their  adoption.  The 
Koshtas  of  Chhattisgarh  have  a  subcaste  called  Bhoriya, 
and  possibly  the  Bhulias  have  some  connection  with  these. 
The  caste  sometimes  call  themselves  Devang,  and  Devang 
or  Devangan  is  the  name  of  another  subcaste  of  Koshtis. 
Various  local  derivations  of  the  name  are  current,  generally 
connecting  it  with  bhiilna,  to  forget.  The  Bhulias  occupy 
a  higher  rank  than  the  ordinary  weavers,  corresponding 
with  that  of  the  Koshtis  elsewhere,  and  this  is  to  some 
extent  considered  to  be  an  unwarranted  pretension.  Thus 
one  saying  has  it :  "  Formerly  a  son  was  born  from  a 
Chandal  woman  ;  at  that  time  none  were  aware  of  his 
descent  or  rank,  and  so  he  was  called  Bhulia  (one  who  is 
forgotten).  He  took  the  loom  in  his  hands  and  became 
the  brother-in-law  of  the  Ganda."  The  object  here  is 
obviously  to  relegate  the  Bhulia  to  the  same  impure  status 
as  the  Ganda.  Again  the  Bhulias  affect  the  honorific  title 
of  Meher,  and  another  saying  addresses  them  thus  :  "  Why 
do  you  call  yourself  Meher  ?  You  make  a  hole  in  the 
ground  and  put  your  legs  into  it  and  are  like  a  cow  with 
foot-and-mouth  disease  struggling  in  the  mud."  The 
allusion  here  is  to  the  habit  of  the  weaver  of  hollowing  out 
a  hole  for  his  feet  as  he  sits  before  the  loom,  while  cattle 
with  foot-and-mouth  disease  are  made  to  stand  in  mud  to 
cool  and  cleanse  the  feet. 

The  caste  have  no  subcastes,  except  that  in  Kalahandi 
a  degraded  section  is  recognised  who  are  called  Sanpara 
Bhulias,  and  with  whom  the  others  refuse  to  intermarry. 
These  are,  there  is  little  reason  to  doubt,  the  progeny  of 
illicit  unions.  They  say  that  they  have  two  gotras,  Nagas 
from  the  cobra  and  Kachhap  from  the  tortoise.  But  these 
have  only  been  adopted  for  the  sake  of  respectability,  and 
exercise  no  influence  on  marriage,  which  is  regulated  by  a 
number  of  exogamous  groups  called  vansa.  The  names 
of  the  vansas  are  usually  either  derived  from  villages  or 
are  titles  or  nicknames.  Two  of  them,  Bagh  (tiger)  and 
Kimir  (crocodile),  are  totemistic,  while  two  more,  Kumhar 
(potter)  and  Dhuba  (washerman),  are  the  names  of  other 
castes.      Examples  of   titular  names  are   Bankra  (crooked). 

II  niruijA  321 

Ranjujha  (warrior),  Kodjit  (one  who  has  conquered  a  score 
of  people)  and  others.  The  territorial  names  arc  derived 
from  those  of  villages  where  the  caste  reside  at  present. 
Marriage  within  the  vansa  is  forbidden,  but  some  of  the 
vansas  have  been  divided  into  bad  and  san,  or  great  and 
small,  and  members  of  these  may  marry  with  each  other, 
the  subdivision  having  been  adopted  when  the  original 
group  became  so  large  as  to  include  persons  who  were 
practically  not  relations.  The  binding  portion  of  the 
wedding  ceremony  is  that  the  bridegroom  should  carry  the 
bride  in  a  basket  seven  times  round  the  honi  or  sacrificial 
fire.  If  he  cannot  do  this,  the  girl's  grandfather  carries 
them  both.  After  the  ceremony  the  pair  return  to  the 
bridegroom's  village,  and  are  made  to  sleep  on  the  same 
bed,  some  elder  woman  of  the  family  lying  between  them. 
After  a  few  days  the  girl  goes  back  to  her  parents  and  does 
not  rejoin  her  husband  until  she  attains  maturity.  The 
remarriage  of  widows  is  permitted,  and  in  Native  States  is 
not  less  costly  to  the  bridegroom  than  the  regular  ceremony. 
In  Sonpur  the  suitor  must  proceed  to  the  Raja  and  pay 
him  twenty  rupees  for  his  permission,  which  is  given  in  the 
shape  of  a  present  of  rice  and  nuts.  Similar  sums  are  paid 
to  the  caste -fellows  and  the  parents  of  the  girl,  and  the 
Raja's  rice  and  nuts  are  then  placed  on  the  heads  of  the 
couple,  who  become  man  and  wife.  Divorce  may  be  effected 
at  the  instance  of  the  husband  or  the  wife's  parents  on  the 
mere  ground  of  incompatibility  of  temper.  The  position  of 
the  caste  corresponds  to  that  of  the  Koshtas  ;  that  is,  they 
rank  below  the  good  cultivating  castes,  but  above  the  menial 
and  servile  classes.  They  eat  fowls  and  the  flesh  of  wild 
pig,  and  drink  liquor.  A  liaison  with  one  of  the  impure 
castes  is  the  only  offence  entailing  permanent  expulsion 
from  social  intercourse.  A  curious  rule  is  that  in  the  case 
of  a  woman  going  wrong  with  a  man  of  the  caste,  the  man 
only  is  temporarily  outcasted  and  forced  to  pay  a  fine 
on  read  mission,  while  the  woman  escapes  without  penalty. 
They  employ  Brahmans  for  ceremonial  purposes.  They 
are  considered  proverbially  stupid,  like  the  Koris  in  the 
northern  Districts,  but  very  laborious.  One  saying  about 
them  is  :  "  The  Kewat  catches  fish  but  himself  eats  crabs, 
VOL.  II  Y 


and  the  BhuHa  weaves  loin-cloths  but  himself  wears  only 
a  rag "  ;  and  another  :  "  A  BhuHa  who  is  idle  is  as  useless 
as  a  confectioner's  son  who  eats  sweetmeats,  or  a  money- 
lender's son  with  a  generous  disposition,  or  a  cultivator's  son 
who  is  extravagant." 

I.  Origin  Bhuiljia.^ — A    small    Dravidian    tribe    residing    in     the 

traditions.  Bindranawagarh  and  Khariar  zamindaris  of  the  Raipur 
District,  and  numbering  about  7000  persons.  The  tribe 
was  not  returned  outside  this  area  in  191 1,  but  Sherring 
mentions  them  in  a  list  of  the  hill  tribes  of  the  Jaipur 
zamlndari  of  Vizagapatam,  which  touches  the  extreme  south 
of  Bindranawagarh.  The  Bhunjias  are  divided  into  two 
branches,  Chaukhutia  and  Chinda,  and  the  former  have  the 
following  legend  of  their  origin.  On  one  occasion  a  Bhatra 
Gond  named  Bachar  cast  a  net  into  the  Pairi  river  and 
brought  out  a  stone.  He  threw  the  stone  back  into  the  river 
and  cast  his  net  again,  but  a  second  and  yet  a  third  time  the 
stone  came  out.  So  he  laid  the  stone  on  the  bank  of  the 
river  and  went  back  to  his  house,  and  that  night  he  dreamt 
that  the  stone  was  Bura  Deo,  the  great  God  of  the  Gonds. 
So  he  said  :  '  If  this  dream  be  true  let  me  draw  in  a  deer  in 
my  net  to-morrow  for  a  sign ' ;  and  the  next  day  the  body 
of  a  deer  appeared  in  his  net.  The  stone  then  called  upon 
the  Gond  to  worship  him  as  Bura  Deo,  but  the  Gond 
demurred  to  doing  so  himself,  and  said  he  would  provide  a 
substitute  as  a  devotee.  To  this  Bura  Deo  agreed,  but  said 
that  Bachar,  the  Gond,  must  marry  his  daughter  to  the 
substituted  worshipper.  The  Gond  then  set  out  to  search 
for  somebody,  and  in  the  village  of  Lafandi  he  found  a  Halba 
of  the  name  of  Konda,  who  was  a  cripple,  deaf  and  dumb, 
blind,  and  a  leper.  He  brought  Konda  to  the  stone,  and  on 
reaching  it  he  was  miraculously  cured  of  all  his  ailments 
and  gladly  began  to  worship  Bura  Deo.  He  afterwards 
married  the  Gond's  daughter  and  they  had  a  son  called 
Chaukhutia  Bhunjia,  who  was  the  ancestor  of  the  Chaukhutia 
division    of    the     tribe.        Now    the     term     Chaukhutia    in 

^  This  article  is  based  on  papers  by  Misra  of  the  Gazetteer  office,  and 
Mr.  Hira  Lai,  Mr.  Gokul  Prasad,  Munshi  Ganpati  Giri,  Superintendent, 
Tahsildar,  Dhamtari,  Mr.   Pyare    L^l       Bindranawagarh  estate. 


Chhattisc^arhi  sit^nifics  a  bastard,  and  the  story  related  above 
is  obviously  intended  to  signify  that  the  Chaukhutia  J^hunjias 
are  of  mixed  descent  from  the  Gonds  and  Halbas.  It  is 
clearly  with  this  end  in  view  that  the  Gond  is  made  to 
decline  to  worship  the  stone  himself  and  promise  to  find 
a  substitute,  an  incident  which  is  wholly  unnatural  and  is 
simply  dragged  in  to  meet  the  case.  The  Chaukhutia  sub- 
tribe  especially  worship  Bura  Deo,  and  sing  a  song  relating 
to  the  finding  of  the  stone  in  their  marriage  ceremony  as 
follows  : 

Johdr,  johar  Thdkur  Dcota,  Tiiniko  Idgon, 

Do  7natia  ghar  men  dine  tumhdre  nam. 

Johdr,  johdr  Konda,  Tumko  Idgon, 

Do  ntatia  ghar  men,  etc. 

Johdr,  johdr  Bdchar  Jhdkar  Tumko  Idgoji,  etc. 

Johdr,  johdr  Bftdha  Kdja  Tumko  Idgon,  etc. 

Johdr,  johdr  Lafandi  Mdti  Tumko  Idgon,  etc. 

Johdr,  johdr  Anand  Mdti  Tumko  Idgon,  etc. 

which  may  be  rendered  : 

I  make  obeisance  to  thee,  O  Thakur  Deo,  I  bow  down  to  thee  ! 

In  thy  name  have  I   placed  two  pots  in  my  house  (as  a  mark  of 

I  make  obeisance  to  thee,  O  Konda  Pujari,  I  bow  down  to  thee  ! 
In  thy  name  have  I  placed  two  pots  in  my  house. 
I  make  obeisance  to  thee,  O  Bachar  Jhakar  ! 
In  thy  name  have  I  placed  two  pots  in  my  house. 
I  make  obeisance  to  thee,  O  Biadha  Raja  ! 
In  thy  name  have  I  placed  two  pots  in  my  house. 
I  make  obeisance  to  thee,  O  Soil  of  Lafandi  ! 
In  thy  name  have  I  placed  two  pots  in  my  house. 
I  make  obeisance  to  thee,  O  Happy  Spot  ! 
In  thy  name  have  I  placed  two  pots  in  my  house. 

The  song  refers  to  the  incidents  in  the  story.  Thakur 
Deo  is  the  title  given  to  the  divine  stone,  Konda  is  the  Halba 
priest,  and  Bachar  the  Gond  who  cast  the  net.  Budha  Raja, 
otherwise  Singh  Sei,  is  the  Chief  who  was  ruling  in 
Bindranawagarh  at  the  time,  Lafandi  the  village  where  Konda 
Halba  was  found,  and  the  Anand  Mati  or  Happy  Spot  is 
that  where  the  stone  was  taken  out  of  the  river.  The 
majority  of  the  sept-names  returned  are  of  Gond  origin,  and 
there  seems  no  doubt  that  the  Chaukhutias  are,  as  the  story 
says,  of  mixed  descent  from  the  Halbas  and  Goods.      It  is 


noticeable,  however,  that  the  Bhunjias,  though  surrounded  by 
Gonds  on  all  sides,  do  not  speak  Gondi  but  a  dialect  of  Hindi, 
which  Sir  G.  Grierson  considers  to  resemble  that  of  the  Halbas, 
and  also  describes  as  "  A  form  of  Chhattlsgarhi  which  is 
practically  the  same  as  Baigani.  It  is  a  jargon  spoken  by 
Binjhwars,  Bhumias  and  Bhunjias  of  Raipur,  Raigarh, 
Sarangarh  and  Patna  in  the  Central  Provinces."  ^  The 
Binjhwars  also  belong  to  the  country  of  the  Bhunjias,  and 
one  or  two  estates  close  to  Bindranawagarh  are  held  by 
members  of  this  tribe.  The  Chinda  division  of  the  Bhunjias 
have  a  saying  about  themselves:  '  Chinda  Raja,  BJiunjia  Pdik^ ; 
and  they  say  that  there  was  originally  a  Kamar  ruler  of 
Bindranawagarh  who  was  dispossessed  by  Chinda.  The 
Kamars  are  a  small  and  very  primitive  tribe  of  the  same 
locality.  Pdik  means  a  foot-soldier,  and  it  seems  therefore 
that  the  Bhunjias  formed  the  levies  of  this  Chinda,  who  may 
very  probably  have  been  one  of  themselves.  The  term 
Bhunjia  may  perhaps  signify  one  who  lives  on  the  soil,  from 
bhuni,  the  earth,  and  jia,  dependent  on.  The  word  Birjia, 
a  synonym  for  Binjhwar,  is  similarly  a  corruption  of  bewar 
jia,  and  means  one  who  is  dependent  on  dahia  or  patch 
cultivation.  Sir  H.  Risley  gives  Birjia,  Binjhia  and  Binjhwar  ^ 
as  synonymous  terms,  and  Bhunjia  may  be  another  corruption 
of  the  same  sort.  The  Binjhwars  are  a  Hinduised  offshoot 
of  the  ancient  Baiga  tribe,  who  may  probably  have  been  in 
possession  of  the  hills  bordering  the  Chhattlsgarh  plain  as 
well  as  of  the  Satpura  range  before  the  advent  of  the  Gonds, 
as  the  term  Baiga  is  employed  for  a  village  priest  over  a  large 
part  of  this  area.  It  thus  seems  not  improbable  that  the 
Chinda  Bhunjias  may  have  been  derived  from  the  Binjhwars, 
and  this  would  account  for  the  fact  that  the  tribe  speaks 
a  dialect  of  Hindi  and  not  Gondi.  As  already  seen,  the 
Chaukhutia  subcaste  appear  to  be  of  mixed  origin  from 
the  Gonds  and  Halbas,  and  as  the  Chindas  are  probably 
descended  from  the  Baigas,  the  Bhunjias  may  be  considered 
to  be  an  offshoot  from  these  three  important  tribes, 
2.  Sub-  Of  the  two  subtribes  already  mentioned  the  Chaukhutia 


'   P'rom  the  Index  of  Languages  and  -   Tribes  and  Castes  of  Bengal,  art. 

Dialects,  furnished  by  Sir  G.  Grierson       Binjhia. 
for  the  census. 


are  recognised  to  be  of  illegitimate  descent.  As  a  consequence 
of  this  they  strive  to  obtain  increased  social  estimation  by 
a  ridiculously  strict  observance  of  the  rules  of  ceremonial 
purity.  If  any  man  not  of  his  own  caste  touches  the  hut 
where  a  Chaukhutia  cooks  his  food,  it  is  entirely  abandoned 
and  a  fresh  one  built.  At  the  time  of  the  census  they 
threatened  to  kill  the  enumerator  if  he  touched  their  huts 
to  affix  the  census  number.  Pegs  had  therefore  to  be 
planted  in  the  ground  a  little  in  front  of  the  huts  and  marked 
with  their  numbers.  The  Chaukhutia  will  not  eat  food 
cooked  by  other  members  of  his  own  community,  and  this 
is  a  restriction  found  only  among  those  of  bastard  descent, 
where  every  man  is  suspicious  of  his  neighbour's  parentage. 
He  will  not  take  food  from  the  hands  of  his  own  daughter 
after  she  is  married  ;  as  soon  as  the  ceremony  is  over  her 
belongings  are  at  once  removed  from  the  hut,  and  even  the 
floor  beneath  the  seat  of  the  bride  and  bridegroom  during 
the  marriage  ceremony  is  dug  up  and  the  surface  earth 
thrown  away  to  avoid  any  risk  of  defilement.  Only  when  it 
is  remembered  that  these  rules  are  observed  by  people  who 
do  not  wash  themselves  from  one  week's  end  to  the  other, 
and  wear  the  same  wisp  of  cloth  about  their  loins  until  it 
comes  to  pieces,  can  the  full  absurdity  of  such  customs  as  the 
above  be  appreciated.  But  the  tendency  appears  to  be  of 
the  same  kind  as  the  intense  desire  for  respectability  so  often 
noticed  among  the  lower  classes  in  England.  The  Chindas, 
whose  pedigree  is  more  reliable,  are  far  less  particular  about 
their  social  purity. 

As  already  stated,  the  exogamous  divisions  of  the  3-  i^^ar- 
Bhunjias  are  derived  from  those  of  the  Gonds.  Among  '"^  ' 
the  Chaukhutias  it  is  considered  a  great  sin  if  the  signs  of 
puberty  appear  in  a  girl  before  she  is  married,  and  to  avoid 
this,  if  no  husband  has  been  found  for  her,  they  perform  a 
'  Kand  Byah '  or  '  Arrow  Marriage '  :  the  girl  walks  seven 
times  round  an  arrow  fixed  in  the  ground,  and  is  given  away 
without  ceremony  to  the  man  who  by  previous  arrangement 
has  brought  the  arrow.  If  a  girl  of  the  Chinda  group  goes 
wrong  with  an  outsider  before  marriage  and  becomes 
pregnant,  the  matter  is  hushed  up,  but  if  she  is  a  Chaukhutia 
it   is  said  that  she  is  finally  expelled  from  the  community, 


the  same  severe  course  being  adopted  even  when  she  is  not 
pregnant  if  there  is  reason  to  suppose  that  the  offence  has 
been  committed.  A  proposal  for  marriage  among  the 
Chaukhutias  is  made  on  the  boy's  behalf  by  two  men  who 
are  known  as  Mahalia  and  Jangalia,  and  are  supposed  to 
represent  a  Nai  (barber)  and  Dhlmar  (water-carrier),  though 
they  do  not  actually  belong  to  these  castes.  As  among  the 
Gonds,  the  marriage  takes  place  at  the  bridegroom's  village, 
and  the  Mahalia  and  Jangalia  act  as  stewards  of  the  cere- 
mony, and  are  entrusted  with  the  rice,  pulse,  salt,  oil  and 
other  provisions,  the  bridegroom's  family  having  no  function 
in  the  matter  except  to  pay  for  them.  The  provisions 
are  all  stored  in  a  separate  hut,  and  when  the  time 
for  the  feast  has  come  they  are  distributed  raw  to  all  the 
guests,  each  family  of  whom  cook  for  themselves.  The 
reason  for  this  is,  as  already  explained,  that  each  one 
is  afraid  of  losing  status  by  eating  with  other  members  of 
the  tribe.  The  marriage  is  solemnised  by  walking  round 
the  sacred  post,  and  the  ceremony  is  conducted  by  a 
hereditary  priest  known  as  Dinwari,  a  member  of  the  tribe, 
whose  line  it  is  believed  will  never  become  extinct.  Among 
the  Chinda  Bhunjias  the  bride  goes  away  with  her  husband, 
and  in  a  short  time  returns  with  him  to  her  parents'  house 
for  a  few  days,  to  make  an  offering  to  the  deities.  But  the 
Chaukhutias  will  not  allow  her,  after  she  has  lived  in  her 
father-in-law's  house,  to  return  to  her  home.  In  future  if 
she  goes  to  visit  her  parents  she  must  stay  outside  the 
house  and  cook  her  food  separately.  Widow-marriage  and 
divorce  are  permitted,  but  a  husband  will  often  overlook 
transgressions  on  the  part  of  his  wife  and  only  put  her  away 
when  her  conduct  has  become  an  open  scandal.  In  such 
a  case  he  will  either  quietly  leave  house  and  wife  and  settle 
alone  in  another  village,  or  have  his  wife  informed  by  means 
of  a  neighbour  that  if  she  does  not  leave  the  village  he  will 
do  so.  It  is  not  the  custom  to  bring  cases  before  the  tribal 
committee  or  to  claim  damages.  A  special  tie  exists 
between  a  man  and  his  sister's  children.  The  marriage  of 
a  brother's  son  or  daughter  to  a  sister's  daughter  or  son 
is  considered  the  most  suitable.  A  man  will  not  allow  his 
sister's   children  .to  eat   the   leavings  of  food  on   his   plate, 


though  his  own  children  may  do  so.  This  is  a  special 
token  of  respect  to  his  sister's  children.  He  will  not  chastise 
his  sister's  children,  even  though  they  deserve  it.  And  it 
is  considered  especially  meritorious  for  a  man  to  pay  for 
the  wedding  ceremony  of  his  sister's  son  or  daughter. 

Every  third  year  in  the  month  of  Chait  (March)  the  4-  Reii- 
tribe  offer  a  goat  and  a  cocoanut  to  Mata,  the  deity  of  ^' 
cholera  and  smallpox.  They  bow  daily  to  the  sun  with 
folded  hands,  and  believe  that  he  is  of  special  assistance  to 
them  in  the  liquidation  of  debt,  which  the  Bhunjias  consider 
a  primary  obligation.  When  a  debt  has  been  paid  off  they 
offer  a  cocoanut  to  the  sun  as  a  mark  of  gratitude  for  his 
assistance.  They  also  pay  great  reverence  to  the  tortoise. 
They  call  the  tortoise  the  footstool  (jpidha)  of  God,  and 
have  adopted  the  Hindu  theory  that  the  earth  is  supported 
by  a  tortoise  swimming  in  the  midst  of  the  ocean.  Professor 
Tylor  explains  as  follows  how  this  belief  arose :  ^  "  To 
man  in  the  lower  levels  of  science  the  earth  is  a  flat  plain 
over  which  the  sky  is  placed  like  a  dome  as  the  arched 
upper  shell  of  the  tortoise  stands  upon  the  flat  plate  below, 
and  this  is  why  the  tortoise  is  the  symbol  or  representative 
of  the  world,"  It  is  said  that  Bhunjia  women  are  never 
allowed  to  sit  either  on  a  footstool  or  a  bed -cot,  because 
these  are  considered  to  be  the  seats  of  the  deities.  They 
consider  it  disrespectful  to  walk  across  the  shadow  of  any 
elderly  person,  or  to  step  over  the  body  of  any  human  being 
or  revered  object  on  the  ground.  If  they  do  this  inadvert- 
ently, they  apologise  to  the  person  or  thing.  If  a  man  falls 
from  a  tree  he  will  offer  a  chicken  to  the  tree-spirit. 

The  tribe  will  eat  pork,  but  abstain  from  beef  and  the  s-  Social 
flesh  of  monkeys.  Notwithstanding  their  strictness  of  social 
observance,  they  rank  lower  than  the  Gonds,  and  only  the 
Kamars  will  accept  food  from  their  hands.  A  man  who 
has  got  maggots  in  a  wound  is  purified  by  being  given  to 
drink  water,  mixed  with  powdered  turmeric,  in  which  silver 
and  copper  rings  have  been  dipped.  Women  are  secluded 
during  the  menstrual  period  for  as  long  as  eight  days,  and 
during  this  time  they  may  not  enter  the  dwelling-hut  nor 
touch  any  article  belonging  to  it.      The   Bhunjias  take  their 

^  Early  History  of  J\Iaiiki)id,  p.  341. 


food  on  plates  of  leaves,  and  often  a  whole  family  will  have 
only  one  brass  vessel,  which  will  be  reserved  for  production 
on  the  visit  of  a  guest.  But  no  strangers  can  be  admitted 
to  the  house,  and  a  separate  hut  is  kept  in  the  village  for 
their  use.  Here  they  are  given  uncooked  grain  and  pulse, 
which  they  prepare  for  themselves.  When  the  women  go 
out  to  work  they  do  not  leave  their  babies  in  the  house,  but 
carry  them  tied  up  in  a  small  rag  under  the  arm.  They 
have  no  knowledge  of  medicine  and  are  too  timid  to  enter 
a  Government  dispensary.  Their  panacea  for  most  dis- 
eases is  branding  the  skin  with  a  hot  iron,  which  is  employed 
indifferently  for  headache,  pains  in  the  stomach  and 
rheumatism.  Mr.  Pyare  Lai  notes  that  one  of  his  informants 
had  recently  been  branded  for  rheumatism  on  both  knees 
and  said  that  he  felt  much  relief. 


list  of  paragraphs 

1.  Orlghi  and  tradition.  5.  Sexual  morality. 

2.  Tribal  subdivisions.  6.  Disposal  of  the  dead. 

3.  Marriage.  7.  Religiofi. 

4.  The  marriage  ceremojiy.  8.  Festivals. 

9.  Social  customs. 

Binjhwar,Binjhal.^ — A  comparatively  civilised  Dravidian  i.  Origin 
tribe,  or  caste  formed  from  a  tribe,  found  in  the  Raipur  and  ^j'^jitjo^ 
Bilaspur  Districts  and  the  adjoining  Uriya  country.  In 
191 1  the  Binjhwars  numbered  60,000  persons  in  the 
Central  Provinces.  There  is  little  or  no  doubt  that  the 
Binjhwars  are  an  offshoot  of  the  primitive  Baiga  tribe  of 
Mandla  and  Balaghat,  who  occupy  the  Satpura  or  Maikal 
hills  to  the  north  of  the  Chhattlsgarh  plain.  In  these 
Districts  a  Binjhwar  subdivision  of  the  Baigas  exists  ;  it  is 
the  most  civilised  and  occupies  the  highest  rank  in  the 
tribe.  In  Bhandara  is  found  the  Injhwar  caste  who  are 
boatmen  and  cultivators.  This  caste  is  derived  from  the 
Binjhwar  subdivision  of  the  Baigas,  and  the  name  Injhwar  is 
simply  a  corruption  of  Binjhwar.  Neither  the  Binjhwars 
nor  the  Baigas  are  found  except  in  the  territories  above 
mentioned,  and  it  seems  clear  that  the  Binjhwars  are  a 
comparatively  civilised  section  of  the  Baigas,  who  have 
become  a  distinct  caste.  They  are  in  fact  the  landholding 
section  of  the  Baigas,  like  the  Raj-Gonds  among  the  Gonds 
and  the  Bhilalas  among  Bhils.  The  zamlndars  of  Bodasamar, 
Rampur,  Bhatgaon  and  other  estates  to  the  south  and  east 
of  the  Chhattlsgarh  plain  belong  to  this   tribe.      But  owing 

1   This  article  is  based  on  a  paper  by  Mr.  Mian  Bhai  Abdul  Hussain,  Extra 
Assistant  Commissioner,  Sambalpur. 


330  BINJHWAR  part 

to  the   change   of  name  their  connection    with  the  parent 
Baigas  has  now    been   forgotten.      The    name    Binjhwar    is 
derived  from  the  Vindhya  hills,  and  the  tribe  still  worship 
the  goddess  Vindhyabasini  of  these  hills  as  their  tutelary 
deity.      They  say  that  their  ancestors  migrated  from  Binjha- 
kop  to  Lampa,  which  may  be  either  Lamta  in  Balaghat  or 
Laphagarh  in  Bilaspur.      The  hills  of  Mandla,  the  home  of 
perhaps  the  most  primitive  Baigas,  are  quite  close  to  the 
Vindhya  range.      The  tribe  say  that  their  original  ancestors 
were   Bdrah    bhai   betkdr,   or   the   twelve    Brother    Archers. ' 
They  were  the  sons  of  the  goddess  Vindhyabasini.      One  day 
they  were  out  shooting  and  let  off  their  arrows,  which  flew 
to  the    door  of  the  great  temple  at   Puri  and  stuck  in   it. 
Nobody  in  the  place  was  able  to  pull   them  out,  not  even 
when  the   king's  elephants  were  brought  and  harnessed   to 
them  ;    till  at  length  the  brothers  arrived   and    drew  them 
forth    quite   easily  with  their  hands,  and  the   king  was   so 
pleased    with    their    feat    that    he    gave    them    the    several 
estates    which    their    descendants    now    hold.      The    story 
recalls  that  of  Arthur  and  the  magic  sword.      According  to 
another  legend    the    mother  of  the    first   Raja  of  Patna,  a 
Chauhan  Rajput,  had  fled  from  northern  India  to  Sambalpur 
after  her  husband  and   relations  had   been  killed  in   battle. 
She  took   refuge  in   a  Binjhwar's  hut  and   bore  a  son  who 
became   Raja  of  Patna  ;   and  in   reward   for  the  protection 
afforded  to  his  mother  he  gave  the  Binjhwar  the  Bodasamar 
estate,  requiring  only  of  him  and  his  descendants  the  tribute 
of  a  silk  cloth  on  accession   to  the  zamindari  ;   and  this  has 
been   rendered   ever   since  by   the    zamlndars   of  Bodasamar 
to  the  Rajas  of  Patna   as   a   mark   of  fealty.      It   is   further 
stated   that  the  twelve  archers  when   they  fired   the   memor- 
able arrows  in  the  forest  were  in   pursuit  of  a  wild   boar  ; 
and  the  landholding  class   of   Binjhwars    are  called   Bariha 
from  bdrdh,  a  boar.      As  is  only  fitting,  the  Binjhwars  have 
taken  the  arrow  as  their  tribal  symbol  or  mark  ;  their  cattle 
are  branded  with  it,  and  illiterate  Binjhwars  sign  it  in  place 
of  their  name.      If  a  husband  cannot  be  found  for  a  girl  she 
is  sometimes  married  to  an  arrow.      At  a  Binjhwar  wedding 
an   arrow  is  laid  on   the  trunk  of  mahua  ^  which  forms  the 

1   Bassia  latifolia. 


marriage-post,  and  honours  are  paid  to  it  as  representing  the 

The  tribe  have  four  subdivisions,  the  Binjhwars  proper,  a.  Tribal 
the  Sonjharas,  the  Birjhias  and  the  Binjhias.  The  Sonjharas  jl^j'sions 
consist  of  those  who  took  to  washing  for  gold  in  the  sands 
of  the  Mahanadi,  and  it  may  be  noted  that  a  separate  caste 
of  Sonjharas  is  also  in  existence  in  this  locality  besides  the 
Binjhwar  group.  The  Birjhias  are  those  who  practised 
bezvar  or  shifting  cultivation  in  the  forests,  the  name  being 
derived  from  beivarjia,  one  living  by  bewar-^o'wmg.  Binjhia 
is  simply  a  diminutive  form  of  Binjhwar,  but  in  Bilaspur 
it  is  sometimes  regarded  as  a  separate  caste.  The  zamlndar 
of  Bhatgaon  belongs  to  this  group.  The  tribe  have  also 
exogamous  divisions,  the  names  of  which  are  of  a  diverse 
character,  and  on  being  scrutinised  show  a  mixture  of 
foreign  blood.  Among  totemistic  names  are  Bagh,  a  tiger  ; 
Pod,  a  buffalo  ;  Kamalia,  the  lotus  flower  ;  Panknali,  the  water- 
crow  ;  Tar,  the  date-palm  ;  Jal,  a  net,  and  others.  Some  of 
the  sections  are  nicknames,  as  Udhar,  a  debtor  ;  Marai  Meli 
Bagh,  one  who  carried  a  dead  tiger  ;  Ultum,  a  talker  ;  Jalia,  a 
liar  ;  Kessal,  one  who  has  shaved  a  man,  and  so  on.  Several 
are  the  names  of  other  castes,  as  Lobar,  Dudh  Kawaria, 
Bhil,  Banka  and  Majhi,  indicating  that  members  of  these 
castes  have  become  Binjhwars  and  have  founded  families. 
The  sept  names  also  differ  in  different  localities  ;  the  Birjhia 
subtribe  who  live  in  the  same  country  as  the  Mundas  have 
several  Munda  names  among  their  septs,  as  Munna,  Son, 
Solai ;  while  the  Binjhwars  who  are  neighbours  of  the 
Gonds  have  Gond  sept  names,  as  Tekam,  Sonwani,  and 
others.  This  indicates  that  there  has  been  a  considerable 
amount  of  intermarriage  with  the  surrounding  tribes,  as  is 
the  case  generally  among  the  lower  classes  of  the  population 
in  Chhattlsgarh.  Even  now  if  a  woman  of  any  caste  from 
whom  the  Binjhwars  will  take  water  to  drink  forms  a  con- 
nection with  a  man  of  the  tribe,  though  she  herself  must 
remain  in  an  irregular  position,  her  children  will  be  considered 
as  full  members  of  it.  The  Barhias  or  landowning  group 
have  now  adopted  names  of  Sanskrit  formation,  as  Gajendra, 
an  elephant,  Rameswar,  the  god  Rama,  and  Nageshwar,  the 
cobra  deity.      Two  of  their  septs  are  named  Lobar  (black- 

332  BINJHWAR  part 

smith)  and  Kumhar  (potter),  and  may  be  derived  from 
members  of  these  castes  who  became  Binjhvvars  or  from 
Binjhwars  who  took  up  the  occupations.  At  a  Binjhwar 
wedding  the  presence  of  a  person  belonging  to  each  of  the 
Lobar  and  Kumhar  septs  is  essential, the  reason  being  probably 
the  estimation  in  which  the  two  handicrafts  were  held  when 
the  Binjhwars  first  learnt  them  from  their  Hindu  neighbours. 

3.  Mar-  In    Sambalpur    there    appears    to     be     no     system    of 
riage.          exogamous  groups,  and   marriage  is  determined   simply  by 

relationship.  The  union  of  agnates  is  avoided  as  long  as 
the  connection  can  be  traced  between  them,  but  on  the 
mother's  side  all  except  first  cousins  may  marry.  Marriage 
is  usually  adult,  and  girls  are  sometimes  allowed  to  choose 
their  own  husbands.  A  bride-price  of  about  eight  kJiandis 
(1400  lbs.)  of  unhusked  rice  is  paid.  The  ceremony  is 
performed  at  the  bridegroom's  house,  to  which  the  bride 
proceeds  after  bidding  farewell  to  her  family  and  friends  in 
a  fit  of  weeping.  Weddings  are  avoided  during  the  four 
months  of  the  rainy  season,  and  in  Chait  (March)  because  it 
is  inauspicious,  Jeth  (May)  because  it  is  too  hot,  and  Pus 
(December)  because  it  is  the  last  month  of  the  year  among 
the  Binjhwars.  The  marriage  ceremony  should  begin  on  a 
Sunday,  when  the  guests  are  welcomed  and  their  feet  washed. 
On  Monday  the  formal  reception  of  the  bride  takes  place, 
the  Gandsan  or  scenting  ceremony  follows  on  Tuesday,  and 
on  Wednesday  is  the  actual  wedding.  At  the  scenting 
ceremony  seven  married  girls  dressed  in  new  clothes  dyed 
yellow  with  turmeric  conduct  the  bridegroom  round  the 
central  post ;  one  holds  a  dish  containing  rice,  mango  leaves, 
myrobalans  and  betel-nuts,  and  a  second  sprinkles  water 
from  a  small  pot.  At  each  round  the  bridegroom  is  made 
to  throw  some  of  the  condiments  from  the  dish  on  to  the 
wedding-post,  and  after  the  seven  rounds  he  is  seated  and  is 
rubbed  with  oil  and  turmeric. 

4.  The  Among  the  Birjhias  a  trunk  of  mahua  with  two  branches 
marriage     jg  ercctcd    in   the    marriacre-shed,  and    on   this    a  dagger   is 

ceremony.  °  _  '^^ 

placed  in  a  winnowing-fan  filled  with  rice,  the  former  repre- 
senting the  bridegroom  and  the  latter  the  bride.  The  bride 
first  goes  round  the  post  seven  times  alone,  and  then  the 
bridegroom,  and   after  this  they  go  round   it  together.      A 


ploui^h  is  brou;^ht  and  they  stand  upon  the  yoke,  and  seven 
cups  of  water  havini^  been  collected  from  seven  different 
houses,  four  arc  poured  over  the  brider,froom  and  three  over 
the  bride.  Some  men  climb  on  to  the  top  of  the  shed  and 
pour  pots  of  water  down  on  to  the  couple.  This  is  now 
said  to  be  done  only  as  a  joke.  Next  morninj^  two  strong 
men  take  the  bridegroom  and  bride,  who  are  usually  grown 
up,  on  their  backs,  and  the  parties  pelt  each  other  with 
unhusked  rice.  Then  the  bridegroom  holds  the  bride  in  his 
arms  from  behind  and  they  stand  facing  the  sun,  while  some 
old  man  ties  round  their  feet  a  thread  specially  spun  by  a 
virgin.  The  couple  stand  for  some  time  and  then  fall  to 
the  ground  as  if  dazzled  by  his  rays,  when  water  is  again 
poured  over  their  bodies  to  revive  them.  Lastly,  an  old 
man  takes  the  arrow  from  the  top  of  the  marriage-post  and 
draws  three  lines  with  it  on  the  ground  to  represent  the 
Hindu  trinity,  Brahma,  Vishnu  and  Siva,  and  the  bridegroom 
jumps  over  these  holding  the  bride  in  his  arms.  The  couple 
go  to  bathe  in  a  river  or  tank,  and  on  the  way  home  the 
bridegroom  shoots  seven  arrows  at  an  image  of  a  sambhar 
deer  made  with  straw.  At  the  seventh  shot  the  bride's 
brother  takes  the  arrow,  and  running  away  and  hiding  it  in 
his  cloth  lies  down  at  the  entrance  of  the  bridegroom's 
house.  The  couple  go  up  to  him,  and  the  bridegroom 
examines  his  body  with  suspicion,  pretending  to  think  that 
he  is  dead.  He  draws  the  arrow  out  of  his  cloth  and  points 
to  some  blood  which  has  been  previously  sprinkled  on  the 
ground.  After  a  time  the  boy  gets  up  and  receives  some 
liquor  as  a  reward.  This  procedure  may  perhaps  be  a 
symbolic  survival  of  marriage  by  capture,  the  bridegroom 
killing  the  bride's  brother  before  carrying  her  off,  or  more 
probably,  perhaps,  the  boy  may  represent  a  dead  deer.  In 
some  of  the  wilder  tracts  the  man  actually  waylays  and  seizes 
the  girl  before  the  wedding,  the  occasion  being  previously 
determined,  and  the  women  of  her  family  trying  to  prevent 
him.  If  he  succeeds  in  carrying  her  off  they  stay  for  three 
or  four  days  in  the  forest  and  then  return  and  are  married. 

If  a  Binjhwar  girl  is  seduced  and  rendered  pregnant  by  5.  Sexual 
a  man  of  the  tribe,  the  people  exact  a  feast  and  compel  '"°'"^i''y- 
them  to  join  their  hands  in  an  informal   manner  before  the 

334  BINJHWAR  part 

caste  committee,  the  tie  thus  formed  being  considered  as 
indissoluble  as  a  formal  marriage.  Polygamy  is  permitted  ; 
a  Binjhvvar  zamindar  marries  a  new  wife,  who  is  known  as 
Pat  Rani,  to  celebrate  his  accession  to  his  estates,  even 
though  he  may  have  five  or  six  already. 

Divorce  is  recognised  but  is  not  very  common,  and  a 
married  woman  having  an  intrigue  with  another  Binjhwar  is 
often  simply  made  over  to  him  and  they  live  as  husband 
and  wife.  If  this  man  does  not  wish  to  take  her  she  can 
live  with  any  other,  conjugal  morality  being  very  loose  in 
Sambalpur.  In  Bodasamar  a  fine  of  from  one  to  ten  rupees 
is  payable  to  the  zamindar  in  the  case  of  each  divorce,  and  a 
feast  must  also  be  given  to  the  caste-fellows. 

6.  Disposal  The  tribe  usually  bury  the  dead,  and  on  the  third  day 
of  the         they  place  on  the  grave  some  uncooked  rice  and  a  lighted 

lamp.  As  soon  as  an  insect  flies  to  the  lamp  they  catch  it, 
and  placing  it  in  a  cake  of  flour  carry  this  to  a  stream, 
where  it  is  worshipped  with  an  offering  of  coloured  rice.  It 
is  then  thrust  into  the  sand  or  mud  in  the  bed  of  the  stream 
with  a  grass  broom.  This  ceremony  is  called  Kharpani  or 
'  Grass  and  Water,'  and  appears  to  be  a  method  of  disposing 
of  the  dead  man's  spirit.  It  is  not  performed  at  all  for 
young  children,  while,  on  the  other  hand,  in  the  case  of 
respected  elders  a  second  ceremony  is  carried  out  of  the 
same  nature,  being  known  as  Badapani  or  '  Great  Water.' 
On  this  occasion  the  jivn  or  soul  is  worshipped  with  greater 
pomp.  Except  in  the  case  of  wicked  souls,  who  are 
supposed  to  become  malignant  ghosts,  the  Binjhwars  do  not 
seem  to  have  any  definite  belief  in  a  future  life.  They  say,  ^  Je 
maris  te  saris',   or  '  That  which  is  dead  is  rotten  and  gone.' 

7.  Reii-  The  tribe  worship  the  common  village  deities  of  Chhat- 
gioti.           tlsgarh,  and    extend    their    veneration    to    Bura    Deo,    the 

principal  god  of  the  Gonds.  They  venerate  their  daggers, 
spears  and  arrows  on  the  day  of  Dasahra,  and  every  third 
year  their  tutelary  goddess  Vindhyabasini  is  carried  in  pro- 
cession from  village  to  village.  Mr.  Mian  Bhai  gives  the 
following  list  of  precepts  as  forming  the  Binjhwar's  moral 
code  : — Not  to  commit  adultery  outside  the  caste  ;  not  to 
eat  beef ;  not  to  murder  ;  not  to  steal  ;  not  to  swear  falsely 
before    the    caste    committee.       The    tribe    have   gurus    or 


spiritual  preceptors,  whom  he  describes  as  the  most  itinerant 
Bairagis,  very  Httle  better  than  impostors.  When  a  b(jy  or 
girl  grows  up  the  Bairagi  comes  and  whispers  the  Karn 
mnntra  or  spell  in  his  ear,  also  hanging  a  necklace  of  iulsi 
(basil)  beads  round  his  neck  ;  for  this  the  guru  receives  a 
cloth,  a  cocoanut  and  a  cash  payment  of  four  annas  to  a 
rupee.  Thereafter  he  visits  his  disciples  annually  at  harvest 
time  and  receives  a  present  of  grain  from  them. 

On  the  iith  of  Bhadon  (August)  the  tribe  celebrate  8.  Festi- 
the  karma  festival,  which  is  something  like  May-Day  or  a  ^^^' 
harvest  feast.  The  youths  and  maidens  go  to  the  forest 
and  bring  home  a  young  karma  tree,  singing,  dancing  and 
beating  drums.  Offerings  are  made  to  the  tree,  and  then 
the  whole  village,  young  and  old,  drink  and  dance  round  it 
all  through  the  night.  Next  morning  the  tree  is  taken  to 
the  nearest  stream  or  tank  and  consigned  to  it.  After  this 
the  young  girls  of  five  or  six  villages  make  up  a  party  and 
go  about  to  the  different  villages  accompanied  by  drummers 
and  Ganda  musicians.  They  are  entertained  for  the  night, 
and  next  morning  dance  for  five  or  six  hours  in  the  village 
and  then  go  on  to  another. 

The  tribe  are  indiscriminate  in  their  diet,  which  includes  9.  Social 
pork,  snakes,  rats,  and  even  carnivorous  animals,  as  panthers.  ^'^'^'°'^^- 
They  refuse  only  beef,  monkeys  and  the  leavings  of  others. 
The  wilder  Binjhwars  of  the  forests  will  not  accept  cooked 
food  from  any  other  caste,  but  those  who  live  in  association 
with  Hindus  will  take  it  when  cooked  without  water  from  a 
few  of  the  higher  ones.  The  tribe  are  not  considered  as 
impure.  Their  dress  is  very  simple,  consisting  as  a  rule 
only  of  one  dirty  white  piece  of  cloth  in  the  case  of  both 
men  and  women.  Their  hair  is  unkempt,  and  they  neither  oil 
nor  comb  it.  A  genuine  Binjhwar  of  the  hills  wears  long 
frizzled  hair  with  long  beard  and  moustaches,  but  in  the 
open  country  they  cut  their  hair  and  shave  the  chin.  Every 
Binjhwar  woman  is  tattooed  either  before,  or  just  after  her 
marriage,  when  she  has  attained  to  the  age  of  adolescence. 
A  man  will  not  touch  or  accept  food  from  a  woman  who  is 
not  tattooed  on  the  feet.  The  expenses  must  be  paid  either 
by  the  woman's  parents  or  her  brothers  and  not  by  her 
husband.      The  practice  is  carried  to  an  extreme,  and  many 

336  BINJHWAR  part  ii 

women  have  the  upper  part  of  the  chest,  the  arms  from 
shoulder  to  wrist,  and  the  feet  and  legs  up  to  the  knee 
covered  with  devices.  On  the  chest  and  arms  the  patterns 
are  in  the  shape  of  flowers  and  leaves,  while  along  the  leg  a 
succession  of  zigzag  lines  are  pricked.  The  Binjhwars  are 
usually  cultivators  and  labourers,  while,  as  already  stated, 
several  zamlndari  and  other  estates  are  owned  by  members 
of  the  tribe.  Binjhwars  also  commonly  hold  the  office  of 
Jhankar  or  priest  of  the  village  gods  in  the  Sambalpur 
District,  as  the  Baigas  do  in  Mandla  and  Balaghat.  In 
Sambalpur  the  Jhankar  or  village  priest  is  a  universal  and 
recognised  village  servant  of  fairly  high  status.  His  business 
is  to  conduct  the  worship  of  the  local  deities  of  the  soil, 
crops,  forests  and  hills,  and  he  generally  has  a  substantial 
holding,  rent  free,  containing  some  of  the  best  land  in  the 
village.  It  is  said  locally  that  the  Jhankar  is  looked  on  as 
the  founder  of  the  village,  and  the  representative  of  the  old 
owners  who  were  ousted  by  the  Hindus.  He  worships  on 
their  behalf  the  indigenous  deities,  with  whom  he  naturally 
possesses  a  more  intimate  acquaintance  than  the  later  immi- 
grants ;  while  the  gods  of  these  latter  cannot  be  relied  on  to 
exercise  a  sufficient  control  over  the  works  of  nature  in  the 
foreign  land  to  which  they  have  been  imported,  or  to  ensure 
that  the  earth  and  the  seasons  will  regularly  perform  their 
necessary  functions  in  producing  sustenance  for  mankind. 



1 .  Origin  of  the  sect.  5 .   Nature  of  the  sect. 

2.  Precepts  of  fhambdji.  6.   Bishnois  in    the    Cetttral   Pro- 

3.  Customs  of  the  Bishnois  in  the  vijices. 

Punjab.  7.   Marriage. 

4.  Initiation  and  baptism.  8.   Disposal  of  the  dead. 

9.   Developnieftt  into  a  caste. 

Bishnoi.^ — A  Hindu  sect  which  has  now  developed  into  i.  Origin 
a  caste.  The  sect  was  founded  in  the  Punjab,  and  the  "'^  ^^^'^  ^^'^'^ 
Bishnois  are  immigrants  from  northern  India.  In  the 
Central  Provinces  they  numbered  about  iioo  persons  in 
191  I,  nearly  all  of  whom  belonged  to  the  Hoshangabad 
District.  The  best  description  of  the  sect  is  contained  in 
Mr.  Wilson's  Sij'sa  Settlement  Report  (quoted  in  Sir  E. 
Maclagan's  Census  Report  of  the  Punjab  for  1 891),  from 
which  the  following  details  are  taken  :  "  The  name  Bishnoi 
means  a  worshipper  of  Vishnu.  The  founder  of  the  sect 
was  a  Panwar  Rajput  named  Jhambaji,  who  was  born  in 
a  village  of  Bikaner  State  in  A.D.  145  i.  His  father  had 
hitherto  remained  childless,  and  being  greatly  oppressed  by 
this  misfortune  had  been  promised  a  son  by  a  Muhammadan 
Fakir.  After  nine  months  Jhambaji  was  born  and  showed 
his  miraculous  origin  in  various  ways,  such  as  producing 
sweets  from  nothing  for  the  delectation  of  his  companions. 
Until  he  was  thirty-four  years  old  he  spoke  no  word  and 
was  employed  in  tending  his  father's  cattle.  At  this  time  a 
Brahman  was  sent  for  to  get  him  to  speak,  and  on  confess- 
ing his   failure,  Jhambaji   showed   his    power    by   lighting  a 

^  This  article  is  compiled  from  Mr.  Castes,  and  from  notes  taken  by  Mr. 
Wilson's  account  of  the  Bishnois  as  Aduram  Chaudhri  in  the  Hoshangabad 
reproduced  in  Mr.  Crooke's  Tribes  and      District. 

VOL.  II  337  Z 

338  BISHNOI  part 

lamp  with  a  snap  of  his  fingers  and  spoke  his  first  word.  He 
adopted  the  Hfe  of  a  teacher  and  went  to  reside  on  a  sand- 
hill some  thirty  miles  south  of  Bikaner.  In  1485  a  fear- 
ful famine  desolated  the  country,  and  Jhambaji  gained  an 
enormous  number  of  disciples  by  providing  food  for  all  who 
would  declare  their  belief  in  him.  He  is  said  to  have  died 
on  his  sandhill  at  the  good  old  age  of  eighty-four,  and  to 
have  been  buried  at  a  spot  about  a  mile  distant  from  it.  A 
further  account  says  that  his  body  remained  suspended  for 
six  months  in  the  bier  without  decomposing.  His  name 
Jhambaji  was  a  contraction  of  Achambha  (The  Wonder), 
with  the  honorific  suffix  ji. 
2.  Precepts  "  The  sayings  {shabd)  of  Jhambaji,  to  the  number  of  one 

o^jham-  hundred  and  twenty,  were  recorded  by  his  disciples,  and 
have  been  handed  down  in  a  book  {pothi)  which  is  written 
in  the  Nagari  character,  and  in  a  Hindu  dialect  similar  to 
Bagri  and  therefore  probably  a  dialect  of  Rajasthani.  The 
following  is  a  translation  of  the  twenty-nine  precepts  given 
by  him  for  the  guidance  of  his  followers  :  '  For  thirty  days 
after  childbirth  and  five  days  after  a  menstrual  discharge 
a  woman  must  not  cook  food.  Bathe  in  the  morning. 
Commit  no  adultery.  Be  content.  Be  abstemious  and 
pure.  Strain  your  drinking-water.  Be  careful  of  your 
speech.  Examine  your  fuel  in  case  any  living  creature  be 
burnt  with  it.  Show  pity  to  living  creatures.  Keep  duty 
present  to  your  mind  as  the  teacher  bade.  Do  not  steal. 
Do  not  speak  evil  of  others.  Do  not  tell  lies.  Never 
quarrel.  Avoid  opium,  tobacco,  bhang  and  blue  clothing. 
Flee  from  spirits  and  flesh.  See  that  your  goats  are  kept 
alive  (not  sold  to  Musalmans,  who  will  kill  them  for  food). 
Do  not  plough  with  bullocks.  Keep  a  fast  on  the  day 
before  the  new  moon.  Do  not  cut  green  trees.  Sacrifice 
with  fire.  Say  prayers  ;  meditate.  Perform  worship  and 
attain  heaven.'  And  the  last  of  the  twenty-nine  duties  pre- 
scribed by  the  teacher  :  *  Baptise  your  children  if  you  would 
be  called  a  true  Bishnoi.'  ^ 

"  Some   of  these    precepts  are   not  strictly  obeyed.     For 

'  The  total  number  of  precepts  as  the  prohibition  of  opium,  tobacco, 
given  above  is  only  twenty-five,  but  can  bhang,  blue  clothing,  spirits  and  flesh 
be  raised  to  twenty-nine  by  counting       separately. 

II         CUSTOMS  OF  TIfE  BISHNOIS  !N  THE  PUNJAIl     339 

instance,  though  ordinarily  they  allow  no  blue  in  their  3-  Customs 
clothing,  yet  a  Bishnoi,  if  he  is  a  police  constable,  is  allowed  ^jshnois  j„ 
to  wear  a  blue  uniform  ;  and  Bishnois  do  use  bullocks,  the  Punjab. 
though  most  of  their  farming  is  done  with  camels.  They 
also  seem  to  be  generally  quarrelsome  (in  words)  and  given  to 
use  bad  language.  But  they  abstain  from  tobacco,  drugs 
and  spirits,  and  are  noted  for  their  regard  for  animal  life, 
which  is  such  that  not  only  will  they  not  themselves  kill  any 
living  creature,  but  they  do  their  utmost  to  prevent  others 
from  doing  so.  Consequently  their  villages  are  generally 
swarming  with  antelope  and  other  animals,  and  they  forbid 
their  Musalman  neighbours  to  kill  them,  and  try  to  dissuade 
European  sportsmen  from  interfering  with  them.  They 
wanted  to  make  it  a  condition  of  their  settlement  that  no 
one  should  be  allowed  to  shoot  on  their  land,  but  at  the 
same  time  they  asked  that  they  might  be  assessed  at  lower 
rates  than  their  neighbours,  on  the  ground  that  the  antelope, 
being  thus  left  undisturbed,  did  more  damage  to  their  crops  ; 
but  I  told  them  that  this  would  lessen  the  merit  (^pun)  of 
their  actions  in  protecting  the  animals,  and  they  must  be 
treated  just  as  the  surrounding  villages  were.  They  consider 
it  a  good  deed  to  scatter  grain  to  pigeons  and  other  birds, 
and  often  have  a  large  number  of  half- tame  birds  about 
their  villages.  The  day  before  the  new  moon  (Amawas) 
they  observe  as  a  Sabbath  and  fast-day,  doing  no  work  in 
the  fields  or  in  the  house.  They  bathe  and  pray  three  times 
a  day,  in  the  morning,  afternoon  and  evening,  saying  '  Bishnu  ! 
Bishnu  ! '  instead  of  the  ordinary  Hindu  '  Ram  !  Ram.'  Their 
clothing  is  the  same  as  that  of  other  Bagris,  except  that  their 
women  do  not  allow  the  waist  to  be  seen,  and  are  fond  of 
wearing  black  woollen  clothing.  They  are  more  particular 
about  ceremonial  purity  than  ordinary  Hindus  are,  and  it  is 
a  common  saying  that  if  a  Bishnoi's  food  is  on  the  first  of  a 
string  of  twenty  camels  and  a  man  of  another  caste  touches 
the  last  camel  of  the  string,  the  Bishnoi  would  consider  his 
food  defiled  and  throw  it  away." 

The  ceremony  of  initiation  is  as  follows :   "  A   number  4-  Initia- 
of  representative  Bishnois  assemble,  and  before  them  a  Sadh  ^apti^m 
or    Bishnoi    priest,    after    lighting    a    sacrificial    fire    {/win), 
instructs  the  novice   in  the  duties  of  the  faith.       He  then 



takes  some  water  in  a  new  earthen  vessel,  over  which  he 
prays  in  a  set  form  {BisJino  gdyatri),  stirring  it  the  while 
with  his  string  of  beads  {indld),  and  after  asking  the  consent 
of  the  assembled  Bishnois  he  pours  the  water  three  times 
into  the  hands  of  the  novice,  who  drinks  it  off.  The 
novice's  scalp-lock  {choti)  is  then  cut  off  and  his  head  shaved, 
for  the  Bishnois  shave  the  whole  head  and  do  not  leave 
a  scalp-lock  like  the  Hindus,  but  they  allow  the  beard  to 
grow,  only  shaving  the  chin  on  the  father's  death.  Infant 
baptism  is  also  practised,  and  thirty  days  after  birth  the 
child,  whether  boy  or  girl,  is  baptised  by  the  priest  (Sadh) 
in  much  the  same  way  as  an  adult ;  only  the  set  form  of 
prayer  is  different,  and  the  priest  pours  a  few  drops  of  water 
into  the  child's  mouth,  and  gives  the  child's  relatives  each 
three  handfuls  of  the  consecrated  water  to  drink  ;  at  the 
same  time  the  barber  clips  off  the  child's  hair.  The 
baptismal  ceremony  has  the  effect  of  purifying  the  house, 
which  has  been  made  impure  by  the  birth  {sutak). 

"  The  Bishnois  do  not  revere  Brahmans,  but  have  priests 
of  their  own  known  as  Sadh,  who  are  chosen  from  among 
the  laity.  The  priests  are  a  hereditary  class,  and  do  not 
intermarry  with  other  Bishnois,  from  whom,  like  Brahmans, 
they  receive  food  and  offerings.  The  Bishnois  do  not  burn 
their  dead,  but  bury  them  below  the  cattle-shed  or  in  some 
place  like  a  pen  frequented  by  cattle.  They  make  pilgrim- 
ages to  the  place  where  Jhambaji  is  buried  to  the  south  of 
Bikaner  ;  here  a  tomb  and  temple  have  been  erected  to  his 
memory,  and  gatherings  are  held  twice  a  year.  The  sect 
observe  the  Holi  in  a  different  way  from  other  Hindus. 
After  sunset  on  that  day  they  fast  till  the  next  forenoon 
when,  after  hearing  read  the  account  of  how  Prahlad  was 
tortured  by  his  infidel  father,  Hrianya  Kasipu,  for  believing 
in  the  god  Vishnu,  until  he  was  delivered  by  the  god  himself 
in  his  incarnation  of  Narsingh,  the  Man-lion,  and  mourning 
over  Prahlad's  sufferings,  they  light  a  sacrificial  fire  and 
partake  of  consecrated  water,  and  after  distributing  sugar 
i^gur)  in  commemoration  of  Prahlad's  delivery  from  the  fire 
into  which  he  was  thrown,  they  break  their  fast." 

5.  Nature  The  abovc  interesting  account  of  the   Bishnois  by  Mr. 

of  the  sect.  WilsoH  shows  that  Jhambaji  was  a  religious  reformer,  who 


attempted  to  break  loose  from  the  debased  Hindu  polytlieism 
and  arrogant  supremacy  of  the  Brahmans  by  choosing  one 
god,  Vishnu,  out  of  the  Hindu  pantheon  and  exalting  him  into 
the  sole  and  supreme  deity.  In  his  method  he  thus  differed 
from  Kablr  and  other  reformers,  who  went  outside  Hinduism 
altogether,  preaching  a  monotheistic  faith  with  one  unseen 
and  nameless  deity.  The  case  of  the  Manbhaos,  whose 
unknown  founder  made  Krishna  the  one  god,  discarding  the 
Vedas  and  the  rest  of  Hinduism,  is  analogous  to  Jhambaji's 
movement.  His  creed  much  resembles  that  of  the  other 
Hindu  reformers  and  founders  of  the  Vaishnavite  sects. 
The  extreme  tenderness  for  animal  life  is  a  characteristic 
of  most  of  them,  and  would  be  fostered  by  the  Hindu  belief 
in  the  transmigration  of  souls.  The  prohibition  of  liquor 
is  another  common  feature,  to  which  Jhambaji  added  that 
of  all  kinds  of  drugs.  His  mind,  like  those  of  Kablr  and 
Nanak,  was  probably  influenced  by  the  spectacle  of  the 
comparatively  liberal  creed  of  Islam,  which  had  now  taken 
root  in  northern  India.  Mr.  Crooke  remarks  that  the 
Bishnois  of  Bijnor  appear  to  differ  from  those  of  the  Punjab 
in  using  the  Muhammadan  form  of  salutation,  Saldm  alaikum, 
and  the  title  of  Shaikhji.  They  account  for  this  by  saying 
they  murdered  a  Muhammadan  Kazi,  who  prevented  them 
from  burning  a  widow,  and  were  glad  to  compound  the 
offence  by  pretending  to  adopt  Islam.  But  it  seems 
possible  that  on  their  first  rupture  with  Hinduism  they 
were  to  some  extent  drawn  towards  the  Muhammadans, 
and  adopted  practices  of  which,  on  tending  again  to  con- 
form to  their  old  religion,  they  have  subsequently  become 

In  northern   India  the  members  of  different  castes  who  6.  Bishnois 
have  become   Bishnois    have    formed    separate   endogamous  ^q^^^^^t^ 
groups,  of  which  Mr.  Crooke  gives  nine  ;  among  these  are  Provinces, 
the  Brahman,   Bania,  Jat,   Sunar,  Ahir    and    Nai    Bishnois. 
Only  members  of  comparatively  good  castes  appear  to  have 
been  admitted  into  the  community,  and  in  the  Punjab  they 
are  nearly  all  Jats  and  Banias.      In  the  Central  Provinces 
the  caste  forms  only  one  endogamous  group.      They  have 
gotras  or  exogamous  sections,  the  names  of  which  appear 
to  be  of  the  titular  or  territorial   type.      Some  of  the  gotras. 


Jhuria,  Ajna,  Sain  and  Ahir/  are  considered  to  be  lower 
than  the  others,  and  though  they  are  not  debarred  from 
intermarriage,  a  connection  with  them  is  looked  upon  as 
something  of  a  inesallia7ice.  They  are  not  consulted  in  the 
settlement  of  tribal  disputes.  No  explanation  of  the  com- 
paratively degraded  position  of  these  septs  is  forthcoming, 
but  it  may  probably  be  attributed  to  some  blot  in  their 
ancestral  escutcheon.  The  Bishnois  celebrate  their  marriages 
at  any  period  of  the  year,  and  place  no  reliance  on  astrology. 
According  to  their  saying,  "  Every  day  is  as  good  as 
Sankrant,"  every  day  is  as  good  as  Amawas.^  The 
Ganges  flows  every  day,  and  he  whose  preceptor  has 
taught  him  the  most  truth  will  get  the  most  good  from 
bathing  in  it." 
7.  Mar-  Before    a    wedding    the    bride's    father    sends,    by    the 

riage.  barber,  a  cocoanut  and  a  silver  ring  tied  round  it  with  a 
yellow  thread.  On  the  thread  are  seven,  nine,  eleven  or 
thirteen  knots,  signifying  the  number  of  days  to  elapse 
before  the  ceremony.  The  barber  on  his  arrival  stands 
outside  the  door  of  the  house,  and  the  bridegroom's  father 
sends  round  to  all  the  families  of  his  caste.  The  men  go 
to  the  house  and  the  women  come  singing  to  the  barber, 
and  rub  turmeric  on  the  boy.  A  married  woman  touches 
the  cocoanut  and  waves  a  lighted  lamp  seven  times  round 
the  bridegroom's  head.  This  is  meant  to  scare  off  evil 
spirits.  On  arrival  at  the  bride's  village  the  bridegroom 
touches  the  marriage-shed  with  the  branch  of  a  ber  or  wild 
plum  tree.  The  mother  of  the  bride  gives  him  some  sugar, 
rubs  lamp-black  on  his  eyes  and  twists  his  nose.  The  bride 
and  bridegroom  are  seated  side  by  side  on  wooden  boards, 
and  after  the  caste  priest  (Sadh)  has  chanted  some  sacred 
verses,  water  is  poured  nine  times  on  to  the  palms  of  the 
bridegroom,  and  he  drinks  it.  They  do  not  perform  the 
ceremony  of  walking  round  the  sacred  pole.  Girls  are 
usually  married  at  a  very  early  age,  sometimes  when  they 
are  only  a  few  months  old.      Subsequently,  when  the  bride- 

1  Jhuria  may  be  Jharia,  jungly ;  Sain  -  The  day  when  the  sun  passes  from 

is  a  term  applied  to  beggars  ;  the  Ahir  one  zodiacal  sign  into  another, 
or  herdsman  sept   may   be   descended 

from  a  man  of  this  caste  who  became  "^  The   New  Moon   day  or  the  day 

a  Bishnoi.  before. 


groom  comes  to  take  his  bride,  her  family  present  her  with 
clothing  and  a  spinning-wheel,  this  implement  being  still  in 
favour  among  the  Bishnois.  When  a  widow  is  to  be  married 
again  she  is  taken  to  her  new  husband's  house  at  night,  and 
there  grinds  a  flour-mill  five  times,  being  afterwards  presented 
with  lac  bangles. 

The  dead  are  never  burnt,  but  their  bodies  are  weighted  8.  Disposal 
with  sand-bags  and  thrown  into  a  stream.  The  practice  ^g^^ 
which  formerly  prevailed  among  the  Bishnois  of  burying 
their  dead  in  the  courtyard  of  the  house  by  the  cattle-stalls 
has  now  fallen  into  desuetude  as  being  insanitary.  A  red 
cloth  is  spread  over  the  body  of  a  woman,  and  if  her 
maternal  relatives  are  present  each  of  them  places  a  piece 
of  cloth  on  the  bier.  After  the  funeral  the  mourning  party 
proceed  to  a  river  to  bathe,  and  then  cook  and  eat  their  food 
on  the  bank.  This  custom  is  also  followed  by  the  Panwar 
Rajputs  of  the  Wainganga  Valley,  but  is  forbidden  by  most 
of  the  good  Hindu  castes.  No  period  of  impurity  is 
observed  after  a  death,  but  on  some  day  between  the  fourth 
and  tenth  days  afterwards  a  feast  is  given  to  the  caste- 

The  Bishnois  of  the  Central  Provinces  are  gradually  9.  Deveiop- 
becoming  an  ordinary  Hindu  caste,  a  fate  which  has  several  ™c"ste"  ° 
times  befallen  the  adherents  of  Hindu  reformers.  Many 
of  the  precepts  of  Jhambaji  are  neglected.  They  still 
usually  strain  their  water  and  examine  their  fuel  before 
burning  it  to  remove  insects,  and  they  scatter  flour  to  feed 
the  ants  and  grain  for  peacocks  and  pigeons.  The  wearing 
of  blue  cloth  is  avoided  by  most,  blue  being  for  an  obscure 
reason  a  somewhat  unlucky  colour  among  the  Hindus.  But 
they  now  use  bullocks  for  ploughing,  and  cut  green  trees 
except  on  the  Amawas  day.  Many  of  them,  especially  the 
younger  generation,  have  begun  to  grow  the  Hindu  cJioti  or 
scalp-lock.  They  go  on  pilgrimage  to  all  the  Hindu  sacred 
places,  and  no  doubt  make  presents  there  to  Brahman  priests. 
They  o^&x  pindas  or  sacrificial  cakes  to  the  spirits  of  their 
deceased  ancestors.  They  observe  some  of  the  ordinary 
Hindu  festivals,  as  the  Anant  Chaturthi,  arid  some  of  them 
employ  Brahmans  to  read  the  Satya  Narayan  Katha,  the 
favourite  Hindu  sacred  book.      They  still  retain  their  special 

344  BISHNOI  part  ii 

observance  of  the  Holi,  The  admission  of  proselytes  has 
practically  ceased,  and  they  marry  among  themselves  like 
an  ordinary  Hindu  caste,  in  which  light  they  are  gradually 
coming  to  be  regarded.  The  Bishnois  are  usually  cultivators 
or  moneylenders  by  calling. 



1.  Origin  of  the  sect.  4.   BoJira  graveyards. 

2.  Their  religious  tenets.  5.   Religious  custotns. 

3.  The  Mullahs.  6.    Occupatio7i. 

7.   Houses  and  dress. 

Bohra,  Bohora.^ — A  Muhammadan  caste  of  traders  who  i.  Origin 
come  from  Gujarat  and  speak  Gujarati.  At  the  last  census  °  '  esect. 
they  numbered  nearly  5000  persons,  residing  principally  in 
the  Nimar,  Nagpur  and  Amraoti  Districts,  Burhanpur  being 
the  headquarters  of  the  sect  in  the  Central  Provinces.  The 
name  is  probably  derived  from  the  Hindi  byoJidra,  a  trader. 
Members  of  the  caste  are  honorifically  addressed  as  Mullaji. 
According  to  the  received  account  of  the  rise  of  the  Bohras 
in  Gujarat  a  missionary,  Abdulla,  came  from  Yemen  to 
Cambay  in  A.D.  1067.  By  his  miracles  he  converted  the 
great  king  Sidhraj  of  Anhilvada  Patan  in  Gujarat,  and  he 
with  numbers  of  his  subjects  embraced  the  new  faith.  For 
two  centuries  and  a  half  the  Bohras  flourished,  but  with  the 
establishment  of  Muzaffar  Shah's  power  (A.D.  1 390-141 3) 
in  that  country  the  spread  of  Sunni  doctrines  was  encouraged 
and  the  Bohra  and  other  Shia  sects  suppressed.  Since  then, 
with  gradually  lessening  numbers,  they  have  passed  through 
several  bitter  persecutions,  meeting  with  little  favour  or 
protection,  till  at  the  close  of  the  eighteenth  century  they 
found  shelter  under  British  rule.  In  1539  the  members  of 
the  sect  living  in  Arabia  were  expelled  from  there  and  came 
to  Gujarat,  where  they  were  hospitably  received  by  their 
brethren,  the   headquarters  of  the  sect   being   thenceforward 

^  This  article  is  largely  based  on  Muhammadans  of  Gujarat,  and  on  a 
Mr.  F.  L.  Farldi's  full  description  of  paper  by  Mr.  Habib  Ullah,  pleader, 
the    sect    in    the    Bombay    Gazetteer,       Burhanpur. 




fixed  at  Surat.  The  Bohras  are  Shias  of  the  great  IsmaiHa 
sect  of  Egypt.  The  IsmaiHa  sect  split  off  from  the  orthodox 
Shias  on  the  question  of  the  succession  to  the  sixth  Imam, 
Jafar  Sadik,  in  A.D.  765.  The  dispute  was  between  his 
eldest  son's  son  Ismail  and  his  second  son  Musi,  the 
Ismailias  being  those  who  supported  the  former  and  the 
orthodox  Shias  the  latter.  The  orthodox  Shias  are  distin- 
guished as  believers  in  twelve  Imams,  the  last  of  whom  is 
still  to  come.  The  Ismailias  again  divided  on  a  similar 
dispute  as  to  the  succession  to  the  Khalifa  Almustansir 
Billah  by  his  eldest  son  Nazar  or  his  younger  son  Almustaali. 
The  Bohras  are  descended  from  the  Mustaalians  or  supporters 
of  the  younger  son  and  the  Khojas  from  the  Nazarians  who 
supported  the  elder  son.^  All  these  distinctions  appear 
somewhat  trivial. 

Gujarat  contains  two  classes  of  Bohras  :  the  traders  who 
are  all  Shias  and  are  the  only  immigrants  into  the  Central 
Provinces,  and  a  large  class  of  cultivating  Bohras  who  are 
Sunnis.  The  latter  may  be  the  descendants  of  the  earliest 
converts  and  may  have  been  forced  to  become  Sunnis  when 
this  sect  was  dominant  in  Gujarat  as  noticed  above,  while  the 
Shias  are  perhaps  descended  from  the  later  immigrants  from 
Arabia.  The  Shia  Bohras  themselves  are  further  divided 
into  several  sects  of  which  the  Daudi  are  the  principal. 

Mr.  Farldi  writes  of  them : '  "  They  are  attentive  to 
their  religious  duties,  both  men  and  women  knowing  the 
Koran.  They  are  careful  to  say  their  prayers,  to  observe 
Muharram  as  a  season  of  mourning  and  to  go  on  pilgrimage 
to  Mecca  and  Kerbala.  They  strictly  abstain  from  music 
and  dancing  and  from  using  or  dealing  in  intoxicating 
drinks  or  drugs.  Though  fierce  sectarians,  keenly  hating 
and  hated  by  the  regular  Sunnis  and  other  Muhammadans 
than  those  of  their  own  sect,  their  reverence  for  Ali  and  for 
their  high  priest  seems  to  be  further  removed  from  adoration 
than  among  the  Khojahs.  They  would  appear  to  accept 
the  ordinary  distinctions  of  right  and  wrong,  punishing 
drunkenness,  adultery  and   other  acts   generally  considered 

^  Bombay  Gazetteer,  AInhammadans 
of  Gujarat,  p.  30.  Sir  H.  T.  Cole- 
brooke  and  Mr.  Conolly  thought  that 

the  Bohras  were   true    Shias  and   not 

2  Ibidem,  pp.  30-32. 

11  THE  MULLAHS  347 

disgraceful.  Of  the  state  beyond  death  they  hold  that,  after 
passing  a  time  of  freedom  as  evil  spirits,  unbelievers  go  to  a 
place  of  torment.  Believers,  but  apparently  only  believers 
of  the  Ismaili  faith,  after  a  term  of  training  enter  a  state  of 
perfection.  Among  the  faithful  each  disembodied  spirit 
passes  the  term  of  training  in  communion  with  the  soul  of 
some  good  man.  The  spirit  can  suggest  good  or  evil  to 
the  man  and  may  learn  from  his  good  deeds  to  love  the 
right ;  when  the  good  man  dies  the  spirits  in  communion 
with  his  soul  are,  if  they  have  gained  by  their  training, 
attached  to  some  more  perfect  man,  or  if  they  have  lost  by 
their  opportunities  are  sent  back  to  learn  ;  spirits  raised  to 
a  higher  degree  of  knowledge  are  placed  in  communion  with 
the  High  Priest  on  earth  ;  and  on  his  death  are  with  him 
united  to  the  Imams,  and  when  through  the  Imams  they 
have  learnt  what  they  still  require  to  know  they  are  absorbed 
in  perfection.  Except  for  some  peculiarities  in  their  names  ; 
that  they  attach  special  importance  to  circumcision  ;  that 
the  sacrifice  or  alsikah  ceremony  is  held  in  the  Mullah's 
house ;  that  at  marriage  the  bride  and  bridegroom  when 
not  of  age  are  represented  by  sponsors  or  ivalis ;  that  at 
death  a  prayer  for  pity  on  his  soul  and  body  is  laid  in  the 
dead  man's  hands  ;  and  that  on  certain  occasions  the  High 
Priest  feeds  the  whole  community — Bohra  customs  do  not 
so  far  as  has  been  ascertained  differ  from  those  of  ordinary 

"  Their  leader,  both  in  things  religious  and  social,  is  the  3.  The 
head  Mullah  of  Surat.  The  ruling  Mullah  names  his  ^^"^^^^'• 
successor,  generally,  but  it  is  said  not  always,  from  among 
the  members  of  his  own  family.  Short  of  worship  the  head 
Mullah  is  treated  with  the  greatest  respect.  He  lives  in 
much  state  and  entertains  with  the  most  profuse  liberality. 
On  both  religious  and  civil  questions  his  authority  is  final. 
Discipline  is  enforced  in  religious  matters  by  fine,  and  in 
case  of  adultery,  drunkenness  and  other  offences,  by  fine, 
excommunication  and  rarely  by  flogging.  On  ceremonial 
occasions  the  head  Mullah  sits  on  his  throne,  and  in  token 
of  his  power  has  the  flyflapper,  chauri,  held  before  him.  As 
the  Bohras  enter  they  make  three  prostrations,  salaams^  close 
their  hands  and  stand  before  him.      To  such  as  are  worthy 

348  BOHRA  part 

he  says  '  Be  seated,'  to  others  '  Stand.'  Once  a  year,  on 
the  1 8th  Rajjab,  every  Daudi  lays  his  palm  within  the  head 
Mullah's  hand  and  takes  an  oath  to  be  faithful.  On  this 
day  when  he  goes  to  the  mosque  the  Bohras  are  said  to  kiss 
the  Mullah's  footsteps  and  to  apply  the  dust  he  treads  to 
their  heads  and  eyes."  Each  considerable  settlement  of  the 
sect  has  a  deputy  Mullah  of  its  own. 

4.  Bohra  Thc  Sahadra  or  burial-place  of  the  Bohras  at  Burhanpur 
graveyards,  contains    the    tombs    of   three    of  the    Surat    Mullahs   who 

happened  to  die  when  they  were  at  Burhanpur.  The  tombs 
are  in  shell-lime  and  are  fairly  handsome  erections.  The 
Bohras  support  here  by  voluntary  subscription  a  rest-house, 
where  members  of  the  sect  coming  to  the  city  can  obtain  free 
board  and  lodging  for  as  long  as  they  like  to  stay.  Mr. 
Conolly  says  of  their  graveyards  :  ^ 

"  Their  burial-grounds  have  a  pleasing  appearance,  the 
tombs  being  regularly  arranged  in  streets,  east  and  west. 
The  tombs  themselves,  which  are,  of  course,  north  and  south, 
the  corpse  resting  on  its  right  side,  differ  in  no  respect  from 
those  of  Sunnis,  with  the  exception  of  a  small  chirdgh  takia 
or  lamp-socket,  cut  out  of  the  north  face,  just  like  the  cavity 
for  the  inscription  of  our  own  tombs." 

5.  Reii-  Of  their  religion  Mr.  Kitts  writes  :  -    "In   prayers  they 
gious          differ  both  from  Shias  and  Sunnis  in  that  they  follow  their 

customs.  ■' 

Mullah,  praying  aloud  after  him,  but  without  much  regularity 
of  posture.  The  times  for  commencing  their  devotions  are 
about  five  minutes  later  than  those  observed  by  Sunnis. 
After  the  midday  and  sunset  supplications  they  allow  a 
short  interval  to  elapse,  remaining  themselves  in  the  mosque 
meanwhile.  They  then  commence  the  afternoon  and  even- 
ing prayers  and  thus  run  five  services  into  three." 

Mr.  Thurston  notes  that  the  Bohras  consider  themselves 
so  superior  to  other  sects  that  if  another  Muhammadan 
enters  their  mosque  they  afterwards  clean  the  spot  which  he 
has  occupied  during  his  prayers.^  They  show  strictness  in 
other  ways,  making  their  own  sweetmeats  at  home  and 
declining  to  eat  those  of  the  Halwai  (confectioner).      It  is  said 

"^  J.A.S.B.   vol.  vi.   (1837),  part  ii.  ^   Cas/es   and    Tribes    of   Southern 

p.  847.  India,  art.  Bohra. 

'^  Berar  Census  Report  ( 1 8 1 8),  p.  70. 


also  that  they  will  not  have  their  clothes  washed  by  a  Dhobi, 
nor  wear  shoes  made  by  a  Chamar,  nor  take  food  touched  by 
any  Hindu.  They  are  said  to  bathe  only  on  Fridays,  and 
some  of  them  not  on  every  Friday.  If  a  dog  touches  them 
they  are  unclean  and  must  change  their  clothes.  They 
celebrate  the  Id  and  Ramazan  a  day  before  other  Muham- 
madans.  At  the  Muharram  their  women  break  all  their 
bangles  and  wear  new  bangles  next  day  to  show  that  they 
have  been  widowed,  and  during  this  period  they  observe 
mourning  by  going  without  shoes  and  not  using  umbrellas. 
Mr.  Conolly  says  of  them  :  "  I  must  not  omit  to  notice  that 
a  fine  of  20  cowries  (equally  for  rich  and  poor)  punishes  the 
non-attendance  of  a  Bohra  at  the  daily  prayers.  A  large 
sum  is  exacted  for  remissness  during  the  Ramazan,  and  it  is 
said  that  the  dread  of  loss  operates  powerfully  upon  a  class 
of  men  who  are  particularly  penny -wise.  The  money 
collected  thus  is  transmitted  by  the  Ujjain  Mullah  to  his 
chief  at  Surat,  who  devotes  it  to  religious  purposes  such  as 
repairing  or  building  mosques,  assisting  the  needy  of  his 
subjects  and  the  like.  Several  other  offences  have  the  same 
characteristic  punishment,  such  as  fornication,  drunkenness, 
etc.  But  the  cunning  Bohras  elude  many  of  the  fines  and 
daily  indulge  in  practices  not  sanctioned  by  their  creed  ; 
thus  in  their  shops  pictures  and  figures  may  be  purchased 
though  it  is  against  the  commandments  to  sell  the  likeness 
of  any  living  thing." 

It  has  been  seen  that  when  a  Bohra  is  buried  a  prayer 
for  pity  on  his  soul  and  body  is  laid  in  the  dead  man's  hands, 
of  which  Mr.  Faridi  gives  the  text.  But  other  Muhammadans 
tell  a  story  to  the  effect  that  the  head  Mullah  writes  a  letter 
to  the  archangel  Gabriel  in  which  he  is  instructed  to  supply 
a  stream  of  honey,  a  stream  of  milk,  water  and  some  fruit 
trees,  a  golden  building  and  a  number  of  houris,  the  extent 
of  the  order  depending  on  the  amount  of  money  which  has 
been  paid  to  the  Mullah  by  the  departed  in  his  lifetime  ; 
and  this  letter  is  placed  beneath  the  dead  man's  head  in  the 
grave,  the  Bohras  having  no  coffins.  The  Bohras  indignantly 
repudiate  any  such  version  of  the  letter,  and  no  doubt  if  the 
custom  ever  existed  it  has  died  out. 

The  Bohras,  Captain   Forsyth  remarks,  though   bigoted 



6.  Occupa-  religionists,  are  certainly  the  most  civilised  and  enterprising 
tion.  g^j^jj  perhaps  also  the  most   industrious  class   in  the  Nimar 

District.  They  deal  generally  in  hardware,  piece-goods  and 
drugs,  and  are  very  keen  traders.  There  is  a  proverb,  "  He 
who  is  sharper  than  a  Bohra  must  be  mad,  and  he  who  is 
fairer  than  a  Khatri  must  be  a  leper."  Some  of  them  are 
only  pedlars  and  hawkers,  and  in  past  times  their  position 
seems  to  have  been  lower  than  at  present.  An  old  account 
says :  ^  "  The  Bohras  are  an  inferior  set  of  travelling 
merchants.  The  inside  of  a  Bohra's  box  is  like  that  of  an 
English  country  shop  ;  spelling-books,  prayer-books,  lavender- 
water,  soap,  tapes,  scissors,  knives,  needles  and  thread  make 
but  a  small  part  of  the  variety."  And  again  :  "In  Bombay 
the  Bohras  go  about  the  town  as  the  dirty  Jews  do  in  London 
early  and  late,  carrying  a  bag  and  inviting  by  the  same  nasal 
tone  servants  and  others  to  fill  it  with  old  clothes,  empty 
bottles,  scraps  of  iron,  etc."" 

7.  Houses  Of  their   method   of  living  Malcolm  wrote  :  ^  "  I  visited 
and  dress,    several  of  the  houses  of  this  tribe  at  Shahjahanpur,  where  a 

colony  of  them  are  settled,  and  was  gratified  to  find  not  only 
in  their  apartments,  but  in  the  spaciousness  and  cleanliness 
of  their  kitchens,  in  the  well-constructed  chimney,  the  neatly 
arranged  pantries,  and  the  polished  dishes  and  plates  as 
much  of  real  comfort  in  domestic  arrangements  as  could 
be  found  anywhere.  We  took  the  parties  we  visited  by 
surprise  and  there  could  have  been  no  preparation."  The 
Bohras  do  not  charge  interest  on  loans,  and  they  combine 
to  support  indigent  members  of  the  community,  never 
allowing  one  of  their  caste  to  beg.  The  caste  may  easily 
be  known  from  other  Muhammadans  by  their  small,  tightly 
wound  turbans  and  little  skull-caps,  and  their  long  flowing 
robes,  and  loose  trousers  widening  from  the  ankle  upwards  and 
gathered  in  at  the  waist  with  a  string.  The  women  dress 
in  a  coloured  cotton  or  silk  petticoat,  a  short-sleeved  bodice 
and  a  coloured  cotton  head-scarf  When  they  go  out  of  doors 
they  throw  a  dark  cloak  over  the  head  which  covers  the 
body  to  the  ankles,  with  gauze  openings  for  the  eyes. 

1  Crooke's  edition  of  i/c;Z'j-^;/-y<5/;i(7«,  ^  Memoir  of  Central  India,   ii.    p. 
art.  Bohra.                                                         in. 

2  Moor's ///«(/«  Infanticide,  p.  168. 



Origin  mid  development  of  the 

Their  monopoly  of  literature. 

Absence  of  central  authority. 

Mixed  elements  in  the  caste. 

Caste  subdivisio7is. 

Miscellaneous  groups. 

Sectarian  divisions. 
8.  Exogamy. 
g.   Restrictions  on  marriage. 

0.  Hypergamy. 

1.  Marriage  customs. 

1.   Polygamy.,   divorce  and  treat- 
ment of  widows. 

1.  Ahivasi. 

2.  Jijhotia. 

3.  Kanaujia,  Kanyakubja. 

4.  Khedawal. 

5.  Maharashtra,  Maratha. 

6.  Maithil. 


Sati  or  burning  of  widows. 


Funeral  7  ites  and  nioiirning. 




Daily  ritual. 


The  sacred  thread. 


Social  position. 




Caste  panchdyat  and  offences. 


Rules  about  food. 








Character  of  Brdhmans. 










Sanadhya,  Sanaurhia. 





Brahman,    Baman. — The  well-known   priestly  caste  of  i.  Origin 
India   and    the   first   of  the    four   traditional   castes   of  the  ^"^  ^^~ 

_  velopment 

Hindu  scriptures.      In  191 1  the  Brahmans  numbered  about  of  the 
450,000  persons    in    the    Central    Provinces   and    Berar,  or  ^^^^^' 

^  This  article  is  mainly  compiled 
from  a  full  and  excellent  account  of 
the  caste  by  Mr.  Gopal  Datta  Joshi, 
Civil  Judge,  Saugor,  C. P.,  to  whom 
the  writer  is  much  indebted.  Extracts 
have  also  been  taken  from  Mr.  W. 
Crooke's  and  Sir  H.  Risley's  articles 
on    the    caste   in   their   works  on   the 

Tribes  and  Castes  of  the  United  Pro- 
vinces and  Bengal  respectively  ;  from 
Mr.  J.  N.  Bhattacharya's  Hindu  Castes 
and  Sects  (Thacker,  Spink  &  Co., 
Calcutta,  1896),  and  from  the  Rev. 
W.  Ward's  View  of  the  History,  Litcra- 
tu7-e  and  Religion  of  the  Hindus 
(London,  1817). 


352  BRAHMAN  part 

nearly  3  per  cent  of  the  population.  This  is  less  than 
the  average  strength  for  India  as  a  whole,  which  is  about 
4^  per  cent.  The  caste  is  spread  over  the  whole  Province, 
but  is  in  greatest  numbers  in  proportion  to  the  population 
in  Saugor  and  Jubbulpore,  and  weakest  in  the  Feudatory 

The  name  Brahman  or  Brahma  is  said  to  be  from  the 
root  brih  or  vrih,  to  increase.  The  god  Brahma  is  con- 
sidered as  the  spirit  and  soul  of  the  universe,  the  divine 
essence  and  source  of  all  being.  Brahmana,  the  masculine 
numerative  singular,  originally  denoted  one  who  prays,  a 
worshipper  or  the  composer  or  reciter  of  a  hymn.^  It  is 
the  common  term  used  in  the  Vedas  for  the  officiating 
priest.  Sir  H.  Risley  remarks  on  the  origin  of  the  caste :  ^ 
"  The  best  modern  opinion  seems  disposed  to  find  the  germ 
of  the  Brahman  caste  in  the  bards,  ministers  and  family 
priests  who  were  attached  to  the  king's  household  in  Vedic 
times.  Different  stages  of  this  institution  may  be  observed. 
In  the  earliest  ages  the  head  of  every  Aryan  household  was 
his  own  priest,  and  even  a  king  would  himself  perform  the 
sacrifices  which  were  appropriate  to  his  rank.  By  degrees 
families  or  guilds  of  priestly  singers  arose,  who  sought 
service  under  the  kings,  and  were  rewarded  by  rich  presents 
for  the  hymns  or  praise  and  prayer  recited  and  sacrifices 
offered  by  them  on  behalf  of  their  masters.  As  time  went 
on  the  sacrifices  became  more  numerous  and  more  elaborate, 
and  the  mass  of  ritual  grew  to  such  an  extent  that  the  king 
could  no  longer  cope  with  it  unaided.  The  employment  of 
puroJdts  or  family  priests,  formerly  optional,  now  became  a 
sacred  duty  if  the  sacrifices  were  not  to  fall  into  disuse. 
The  Brfdiman  obtained  a  monopoly  of  priestly  functions, 
and  a  race  of  sacerdotal  specialists  arose  which  tended 
continually  to  close  its  ranks  against  the  intrusion  of  out- 
siders." Gradually  then  from  the  household  priests  and 
those  who  made  it  their  business  to  commit  to  memory  and 
recite  the  sacred  hymns  and  verses  handed  down  orally 
from    generation    to    generation    through    this    agency,    an 

1  Crooke's   Tribes   and  Castes,   art.       Brahmanism. 
Brahman,     quoting     Professor    Eggol-  ^   Tribes  and  Castes  of  Bengal,  art. 

ing   in   Encyclopcedia   Britannica,  s.v.       Braliman. 

II  TlIJ'llR  MONOl'OLV  OF  I.niiRATURK  353 

occupational  caste  emerged,  which  arrogated  to  itself  the 
monopoly  of  these  functions,  and  the  doctrine  developed 
that  nobody  could  perform  them  who  was  not  qualified  by 
birth,  that  is,  nobody  could  be  a  Brahman  who  was  not  the 
son  of  a  Brahman.  When  religious  ritual  became  more 
important,  as  apparently  it  did,  a  desire  would  naturally 
arise  among  the  priests  to  make  their  revered  and  lucrative 
profession  a  hereditary  monopoly  ;  and  this  they  were  easily 
and  naturally  able  to  do  by  only  teaching  the  sacred  songs 
and  the  sacrificial  rules  and  procedure  to  their  own  de- 
scendants. The  process  indeed  would  be  to  a  considerable 
extent  automatic,  because  the  priests  would  always  take 
their  own  sons  for  their  pupils  in  the  first  place,  and  in  the 
circumstances  of  early  Indian  society  a  married  priesthood 
would  thus  naturally  evolve  into  a  hereditary  caste.  The 
Levites  among  the  Jews  and  the  priests  of  the  Parsis  formed 
similar  hereditary  orders,  and  the  reason  why  they  did  not 
arise  in  other  great  religions  would  appear  to  have  been  the 
prescription  or  encouragement  of  the  rule  of  celibacy  for 
the  clergy  and  the  foundation  of  monasteries,  to  which 
admission  was  free.  But  the  military  landed  aristocracies 
of  Europe  practically  formed  hereditary  castes  which  were 
analogous  to  the  Brahman  and  Rajput  castes,  though  of  a 
less  stereotyped  and  primitive  character.  The  rise  of  the 
Brahman  caste  was  thus  perhaps  a  comparatively  simple 
and  natural  product  of  religious  and  social  evolution,  and 
might  have  occurred  independently  of  the  development  of 
the  caste  system  as  a  whole.  The  former  might  be 
accounted  for  by  reasons  which  would  be  inadequate  to 
explain  the  latter,  even  though  as  a  matter  of  fact  the  same 
factors  were  at  work  in  both  cases. 

The  hereditary  monopoly  of  the  sacred  scriptures  would  2.  Their 
be    strengthened    and    made    absolute    when     the    Sanskrit  i"o"opoiy 

°  of  litera- 

language,  in  which  they  had  been  composed  and  handed  ture. 
down,  ceased  to  be  the  ordinary  spoken  language  of  the 
people.  Nobody  then'  could  learn  them  unless  he  was 
taught  by  a  Brahman  priest.  And  by  keeping  the  sacred 
literature  in  an  unknown  language  the  priesthood  made 
their  own  position  absolutely  secure  and  got  into  their  own 
hands  the  allocation  of  the  penalties  and  rewards  promised 
VOL.  II  2  A 

354  BRAHMAN  part 

by  religion,  for  which  these  books  were  the  authority,  that 
is  to  say,  the  disposal  of  the  souls  of  Hindus  in  the  after- 
life. They,  in  fact,  held  the  keys  of  heaven  and  hell.  The 
jealousy  with  which  they  guarded  them  is  well  shown  by 
the  Abbe  Dubois  :  ^  "  To  the  Brahmans  alone  belongs 
the  right  of  reading  the  Vedas,  and  they  are  so  jealous  of 
this,  or  rather  it  is  so  much  to  their  interest  to  prevent 
other  castes  obtaining  any  insight  into  their  contents,  that 
the  Brahmans  have  inculcated  the  absurd  theory,  which  is 
implicitly  believed,  that  should  anybody  of  any  other  caste 
be  so  highly  imprudent  as  even  to  read  the  title-page  his 
head  would  immediately  split  in  two.  The  very  few 
Brahmans  who  are  able  to  read  those  sacred  books  in  the 
original,  only  do  so  in  secret  and  in  a  whisper.  Expulsion 
from  caste,  without  the  smallest  hope  of  re-entering  it,  would 
be  the  lightest  punishment  of  a  Brahman  who  exposed  those 
books  to  the  eyes  of  the  profane."  It  would  probably  be 
unfair,  however,  to  suppose  that  the  Vedas  were  kept  in  the 
original  Sanskrit  simply  from  motives  of  policy.  It  was 
probably  thought  that  the  actual  words  of  the  sacred  text 
had  themselves  a  concrete  force  and  potency  which  would 
be  lost  in  a  translation.  This  is  the  idea  underlying  the 
whole  class  of  beliefs  in  the  virtue  of  charms  and  spells. 

But  the  Brahmans  had  the  monopoly  not  only  of  the 
sacred  Sanskrit  literature,  but  practically  of  any  kind  of 
literacy  or  education.  They  were  for  long  the  only  literate 
section  of  the  people.  Subsequently  two  other  castes  learnt 
to  read  and  write  in  response  to  an  economic  demand,  the 
Kayasths  and  the  Banias.  The  Kayasths,  it  has  been 
suggested  in  the  article  on  that  caste,  were  to  a  large  extent 
the  offspring  and  inmates  of  the  households  of  Brahmans, 
and  were  no  doubt  taught  by  them,  but  only  to  read  and 
write  the  vernacular  for  the  purpose  of  keeping  the  village 
records  and  accounts  of  rent.  They  were  excluded  from 
any  knowledge  of  Sanskrit,  and  the  Kayasths  subsequently 
became  an  educated  caste  in  spite  of  their  Brahman  pre- 
ceptors, by  learning  Persian  under  their  Muhammadan, 
and  English  under  their  European  employers.  The  Banias 
never  desired   nor  were  encouraged  to  attain  to  any  higher 

'  Hindu  Manners^  Ciis/onis,  and  Ccretiionies,  3rd  ed.  p.  172. 


degree  of  literacy  than  that  necessary  for  keeping  accounts 
of  sale  and  loan  transactions.  The  Brahmans  thus  remained 
the  only  class  with  any  real  education,  and  acquired  a 
monopoly  not  only  of  intellectual  and  religious  leadership, 
but  largely  of  public  administration  under  the  Hindu  kings. 
No  literature  cxi.sted  outside  their  own,  which  was  mainly 
of  a  sacerdotal  character  ;  and  India  had  no  heritage  such 
as  that  bequeathed  by  Greece  and  Rome  to  mediaeval 
Europe  which  could  produce  a  Renaissance  or  revival  of 
literacy,  leading  to  the  Reformation  of  religion  and  the 
breaking  of  the  fetters  in  which  the  Roman  priesthood  had 
bound  the  human  mind.  The  Brahmans  thus  established, 
not  only  a  complete  religious,  but  also  a  social  ascendancy 
which  is  only  now  beginning  to  break  down  since  the 
British  Government  has  made  education  available  to  all. 

The  Brahman  body,  however,  lacked  one  very  important  3-  Absence 
clement  of  strength.  They  were  apparently  never  organised  authority. 
nor  controlled  by  any  central  authority  such  as  that  which 
made  the  Roman  church  so  powerful  and  cohesive.  Colleges 
and  seats  of  learning  existed  at  Benares  and  other  places, 
at  which  their  youth  were  trained  in  the  knowledge  of  religion 
and  of  the  measure  of  their  own  pretensions,  and  the  means 
by  which  these  were  to  be  sustained.  But  probably  only  a 
small  minority  can  have  attended  them,  and  even  these 
when  they  returned  home  must  have  been  left  practically 
to  themselves,  spread  as  the  Brahmans  were  over  the  whole 
of  India  with  no  means  of  postal  communication  or  rapid 
transit.  And  by  this  fact  the  chaotic  character  of  the 
Hindu  religion,  its  freedom  of  belief  and  worship,  its 
innumerable  deities,  and  the  almost  complete  absence  of 
dogmas  may  probably  be  to  a  great  extent  explained. 
And  further  the  Brahman  caste  itself  cannot  have  been  so 
strictly  organised  that  outsiders  and  the  priests  of  the 
lower  alien  religions  never  obtained  entrance  to  it.  As 
shown  by  Mr.  Crooke,  many  foreign  elements,  both  indi- 
viduals and  groups,  have  at  various  times  been  admitted 
into  the  caste. 

The  early   texts    indicate   that    Brahmans  were  in    the  4.  Mixed 
habit  of  forming  connections  with  the  widows  of  Raianyas  elements  m 

°  .  -'       -^         the  caste. 

and  Vaishyas,  even  if  they  did  not  take  possession   of  the 

356  BRAHMAN  part 

wives  of  such  men  while  they  were  still  alive/  The  sons 
of  Angiras,  one  of  the  great  ancestral  sages,  were  Brahmans 
as  well  as  Kshatriyas,  The  descendants  of  Garga,  another 
well-known  eponymous  ancestor,  were  Kshatriyas  by  birth 
but  became  Brahmans.  Visvamitra  was  a  Kshatriya,  who, 
by  the  force  of  his  austerities,  compelled  Brahma  to  admit 
him  into  the  Brahmanical  order,  so  that  he  might  be  on  a 
level  with  Vasishtha  with  whom  he  had  quarrelled.  Accord- 
ing to  a  passage  in  the  Mahabharata  all  castes  become 
Brahmans  when  once  they  have  crossed  the  Gomti  on  a 
pilgrimage  to  the  hermitage  of  Vasishtha."  In  more  recent 
times  there  are  legends  of  persons  created  Brahmans  by 
Hindu  Rajas.  Sir  J.  Malcolm  in  Central  India  found  many 
low-caste  female  slaves  in  Brahman  houses,  the  owners  of 
which  had  treated  them  as  belonging  to  their  own  caste.^ 

It  would  appear  also  that  in  some  cases  the  caste  priests  of 
different  castes  have  become  Brahmans.  Thus  the  Saraswat 
Brahmans  of  the  Punjab  are  the  priests  of  the  Khatri  caste. 
They  have  the  same  complicated  arrangement  of  exogamy 
and  hypergamy  as  the  Khatris,  and  will  take  food  from 
that  caste.  It  seems  not  improbable  that  they  are  really 
descendants  of  Khatri  priests  who  have  become  Brahmans.* 

Similarly  such  groups  as  the  Oswal,  Srimal  and  Palliwal 
Brahmans  of  Rajputana,  who  are  priests  of  the  subcastes  of 
Banias  of  the  same  name,  may  originally  have  been  caste 
priests  and  become  Brahmans.  The  Naramdeo  Brahmans, 
or  those  living  on  the  Nerbudda  River,  are  said  to  be 
descendants  of  a  Brahman  father  by  a  woman  of  the  Naoda 
or  Dhlmar  caste  ;  and  the  Golapurab  Brahmans  similarly  of 
a  Brahman  father  and  Ahlr  mother.  In  many  cases,  such 
as  the  island  of  Onkar  Mandhata  in  the  Nerbudda  in  Nimar, 
and  the  Mahadeo  caves  at  Pachmarhi,  the  places  of  worship 
of  the  non- Aryan  tribes  have  been  adopted  by  Hinduism 
and  the  old  mountain  or  river  gods  transformed  into  Hindu 
deities.  At  the  same  time  it  is  not  improbable  that  the 
tribal  priests  of  the  old  shrines  have  been  admitted  into  the 
Brahman  caste. 

^   Muir,  Ancient  Sanskrit   Texts,  i.  ■''  Quoted  by  Mr.  Crooke. 

282  sq. 

^  Quoted    in    Mr.    Crooke's    Tribes  ^    Tribes  and  Castes  oj  the  Punjab, 

and  Castes,  art.  Brahman.  by  Mr.  H.  A.  Rose,  vol.  ii.  p.  123. 


The  Brahman  caste  has  ten  main  territorial  divisions,  5.  Caste 
forming  two  groups,  the  ranch-Gaur  or  five  northern,  and  ^'jyjsions 
the  Panch-Dravida  or  five  southern.  The  boundary  Hue 
between  the  two  groups  is  supposed  to  be  the  Ncrbudda 
River,  which  is  also  the  boundary  between  Hindustan  and 
the  Deccan.  But  the  Gujarati  Brahmans  belong  to  the 
southern  group,  though  Gujarat  is  north  of  the  Nerbudda. 
The  five  northern  divisions  are  : 

{(i)  Sdraswat. — ^ These  belong  to  the  Punjab  and  are 
named  after  the  Saraswati  river  of  the  classical  period,  on 
whose  banks  they  are  supposed  to  have  lived. 

{]))  Ganr. — The  home  of  these  is  the  country  round 
Delhi,  but  they  say  that  the  name  is  from  the  old  Gaur  or 
Lakhnauti  kingdom  of  Bengal.  If  this  is  correct,  it  is 
difficult  to  understand  how  they  came  from  Bengal  to  Delhi 
contrary  to  the  usual  tendency  of  migration.  General 
Cunningham  has  suggested  that  Gaura  was  also  the  name 
of  the  modern  Gonda  District,  and  it  is  possible  that  the 
term  was  once  used  for  a  considerable  tract  in  northern 
India  as  well  as  Bengal,  since  it  has  come  to  be  applied 
to  all  the  northern  Brahmans.^ 

{c)  Kdnkubja  or  Kanaujia. — These  are  named  after  the 
old  town  of  Kanauj  on  the  Ganges  near  Cawnpore,  once 
the  capital  of  India.  The  Kanaujia  are  the  most  important 
of  the  northern  groups  and  extend  from  the  west  of  Oudh 
to  beyond  Benares  and  into  the  northern  Districts  of  the 
Central  Provinces.  Here  they  are  subdivided  into  four 
principal  groups — the  Kanaujia,  Jijhotia,  Sarwaria  and 
Sanadhya,  which  are  treated  in  annexed  subordinate 

{d)  Maithil. — They  take  their  name  from  Mithila,  the 
old  term  for  Bihar  or  Tirhut,  and  belong  to  this  tract. 

{e)    Utkal. — These  are  the  Brahmans  of  Orissa. 

The  five  groups  of  the  Panch-Dravida  are  as  follows  : 

ia)  Maharashtra. — These  belong  to  the  Maratha  country 
or  Bombay.  They  are  subdivided  into  three  main  terri- 
torial groups — the  Deshasth,  or  those  of  the  home  country, 
that  is  the  Poona  tract  above  the  Western  Ghats  ;  the 
Konkonasth,  who  belong  to  the  Bombay  Konkan  or  littoral ; 
^  See  also  article  Rajput-Gaur. 

358  BRAHMAN  part 

and  the  Karhara,  named  after  a  place  in  the  Satara 

ib)  Tailanga  or  AndJira. — The  Brahmans  of  the  Telugu 
country,  Hyderabad  and  the  northern  part  of  Madras.  This 
territory  was  known  as  Andhra  and  governed  by  an  important 
dynasty  of  the  same  name  in  early  times. 

(r)  Drdvida. — The  Brahmans  of  the  Tamil  country  or 
the  south  of  Madras, 

id)  Karndta.  —  The  Brahmans  of  the  Carnatic,  or  the 
Canarese  country.  The  Canarese  area  comprises  the  Mysore 
State,  and  the  British  Districts  of  Canara,  Dharwar  and 

{e)  Gurjara. — The  Brahmans  of  Gujarat,  of  whom  two 
subcastes  are  found  in  the  Central  Provinces.  The  first 
consists  of  the  Khedawals,  named  after  Kheda,  a  village  in 
Gujarat,  who  are  a  strictly  orthodox  class  holding  a  good 
position  in  the  caste.  And  the  second  are  the  Nagar 
Brahmans,  who  have  been  long  settled  in  Nimar  and  the 
adjacent  tracts,  and  act  as  village  priests  and  astrologers. 
Their  social  status  is  somewhat  lower. 

There  are,  however,  a  large  number  of  other  subcastes, 
and  the  tendency  to  fissure  in  a  large  caste,  and  to  the 
formation  of  small  local  groups  which  marry  among  them- 
selves, is  nowhere  more  strikingly  apparent  than  among 
the  Brahmans.  This  is  only  natural,  as  they,  more  than 
any  other  caste,  attach  importance  to  strict  ceremonial 
observance  in  matters  of  food  and  the  daily  ritual  of  prayer, 
and  any  group  which  was  suspected  of  backsliding  in  respect 
of  these  on  emigration  to  a  new  locality  would  be  debarred 
from  intermarriage  with  the  parent  caste  at  home.  An 
instance  of  this  is  found  among  the  Chhattlsgarhi  Brahmans, 
who  have  been  long  settled  in  this  backward  tract  and  cut 
off  from  communication  with  northern  India.  They  are 
mainly  of  the  Kanaujia  division,  but  the  Kanaujias  of  Oudh 
will  neither  take  food  nor  intermarry  with  them,  and  they 
now  constitute  a  separate  subcaste  of  Kanaujias.  Similarly 
the  Malwi  Brahmans,  whose  home  is  in  Malwa,  whence 
they  have  spread  to  Hoshangabad  and  Betul,  are  believed 
to  have  been  originally  a   branch  of  the  Gaur  or  Kanaujia, 

'  Sec  subordinate  articles. 


but  have  now  become  a  distinct  subcastc,  and  have  adopted 
many  of  the  customs  of  Maratha  Brfdimans.  Mandla 
contains  a  colony  of  Sarwaria '  Brahmans  who  received 
grants  of  villages  from  the  Gond  kings  and  have  settled 
down  there.  They  are  now  cultivators,  and  some  have 
taken  to  the  plough,  while  they  also  permit  widow-remarriage 
in  all  but  the  name.  They  arc  naturally  cut  off  from 
intercourse  with  the  orthodox  Sarwarias  and  marry  among 
themselves.  The  Harenia  Brahmans  of  Saugor  arc  believed 
to  have  immigrated  from  Hariana  some  generations  ago  and 
form  a  separate  local  group  ;  and  also  the  Laheria  Brahmans 
of  the  same  District,  who,  like  the  Mandla  Sarwarias,  permit 
widows  to  marry.  In  Hoshangabad  there  is  a  small  sub- 
caste  of  BawTsa  or  '  Twenty-two  '  Brahmans,  descended  from 
twenty-two  families  from  northern  India,  who  settled  here 
and  have  since  married  among  themselves.  A  similar  diversity 
of  subcastes  is  found  in  other  Provinces.  The  Brahmans 
of  Bengal  are  also  mainly  of  the  Kanaujia  division,  but  they 
are  divided  into  several  local  subcastes,  of  which  the  principal 
are  Rarhi  and  Barendra,  named  after  tracts  in  Bengal,  and 
quite  distinct  from  the  subdivisions  of  the  Kanaujia  group  in 
the  Central  Provinces. 

Another   class    of   local    subdivisions   consists   of   those  e.  Miscei- 
Brahmans  who  live  on  the  banks  of  the  various  sacred  rivers  '^"^o^s 

,     .  groups, 

or  at  famous  shrmes,  and  earn  their  livelihood  by  conducting 

pilgrims  through  the  series  of  ceremonies  and  acts  of  wor- 
ship which  are  performed  on  a  visit  to  such  places  ;  they 
receive  presents  from  the  pilgrims  and  the  offerings  made 
at  the  shrines.  The  most  prominent  among  these  are  the 
Gayawals  of  Gaya,  the  Prayagwals  of  Allahabad  (Prayag),  the 
Chaubes  of  Mathura,  the  Gangaputras  (Sons  of  the  Ganges) 
of  Benares,  the  Pandarams  of  southern  India  and  the 
Naramdeo  Brahmans  who  hold  charge  of  the  many  temples 
on  the  Nerbudda.  As  such  men  accept  gifts  from  pilgrims 
they  are  generally  looked  down  on  by  good  Brahmans  and 
marry  among  themselves.  Many  of  them  have  a  character 
for  extortion  and  for  fleecing  their  clients,  a  propensity 
commonly  developed  in  a  profession  of  this  kind.  Such  a 
reputation  particularly  attaches  to  the  Chaubes  of  Mathura 

1  A  section  of  the  Kanaujia.      See  above. 

36o  BRAHMAN  part 

and  Brindaban,  the  holy  places  of  the  god  Krishna.  They 
are  strong  and  finely  built  men,  but  gluttonous,  idle  and 
dissolute.  Some  of  the  Benares  Brahmans  are  known  as 
Sawalakhi,  or  having  one  and  a  quarter  lakhs,  apparently 
on  account  of  the  wealth  they  amass  from  pilgrims,  A 
much  lower  group  are  the  Maha-Brahmans  (great  Brah- 
mans), who  are  also  known  as  Patit  (degraded)  or  Katia. 
These  accept  the  gifts  offered  by  the  relatives  after  a  death 
for  the  use  of  the  dead  man  in  the  next  world  during 
the  period  of  mourning ;  they  also  eat  food  which  it  is 
supposed  will  benefit  the  dead  man,  and  are  considered  to 
represent  him.  Probably  on  this  account  they  share  in  the 
impurity  attaching  to  the  dead,  and  are  despised  by  all 
castes  and  sometimes  not  permitted  to  live  in  the  village. 
Other  Brahmans  are  degraded  on  account  of  their  having 
partly  adopted  Muhammadan  practices.  The  Husaini 
Brahmans  of  western  India  are  so  called  as  they  combine 
Muhammadan  with  Hindu  rites.  They  are  principally 
beggars.  And  the  Kalanki  Brahmans  of  Wardha  and  other 
Districts  are  looked  down  upon  because,  it  is  said,  that  at 
the  bidding  of  a  Muhammadan  governor  they  make  a  figure 
of  a  cow  from  sugar  and  eat  it  up.  Probably  they  may  have 
really  acted  as  priests  to  Muhammadans  who  were  inclined 
to  adopt  certain  Hindu  rites  on  the  principle  of  imitation, 
and  with  a  view  to  please  their  disciples  conformed  to  some 
extent  to  Islam. 
7.  Sect-  Brahmans  have  also  sectarian  divisions  according  to  the 

sions  '^'  different  Vedas,  which  they  especially  study.  It  is  held 
that  the  ancient  Rishis  or  saints,  like  the  Jewish  patriarchs, 
lived  far  beyond  the  ordinary  span  of  existence,  and  hence 
had  time  to  learn  all  the  Vedas  and  their  commentaries. 
But  this  was  impossible  for  their  shorter-lived  descendants, 
and  hence  each  Veda  has  been  divided  into  a  number  of 
Shakhas  or  branches,  and  the  ordinary  Brahman  only  learns 
one  Shakha  of  one  Veda.  Most  Brahmans  of  the  Central 
Provinces  are  either  Rigvedis  or  Yajurvedis,  and  these 
commonly  marry  only  followers  of  their  own  Veda,  thus 
forming  a  sort  of  cross  set  of  endogamous  divisions.  The 
restriction  on  marriage  may  also  extend  to  the  Shakha,  so 
that  a  man  can  only  marry  in  a  family  of  the  same  Shakha 


as  himself.  This  applies  in  the  Central  Provinces  mainly 
to  the  Yajurvcclis,  who  have  three  well-known  Shakhas  or 
branches  called  Kannava,  Apastambha  and  Madhyandina. 
These  are  derived  from  the  Shukla  or  White  Yajurveda, 
which  can  be  understood,  while  the  Black  Yajurveda  is 
obscure  and  unintelligible.  The  Rigvedis  and  Yajurvedis 
have  some  differences  in  their  methods  of  recitation.  The 
Rigvedis  are  said  to  move  the  head  up  and  down  when  they 
recite  and  not  to  use  the  hands  ;  while  the  Yajurvedis  swing 
the  hands  and  body  from  side  to  side.  It  is  said  that  a 
Madhyandina  cannot  say  his  prayers  nor  take  his  food 
before  midday,  and  hence  the  name,  which  means  half  the 
day.  These  points  of  distinction  are  given  as  stated  by  the 
local  Brahmans,  and  it  is  not  known  whether  they  would  be 
endorsed  by  the  Pandits.  The  Maratha  Brahmans  of  the 
Central  Provinces  are  usually  Rigvedis  and  the  Kanaujia 
Brahmans  Yajurvedis.  Followers  of  the  other  two  Vedas 
are  practically  not  found.  Among  Kanaujia  Brahmans  it  is 
also  customary  to  ask  the  head  of  a  family  with  which  a 
marriage  is  proposed  whether  he  ties  a  knot  in  the  right  or 
left  half  of  his  Shikha  or  scalp-lock  during  his  prayers  and 
whether  he  washes  his  right  or  left  foot  first  in  the  perform- 
ance of  a  religious  ceremony. 

The  exogamous  arrangements  of  the  Brahmans  are  also  s.  Exo- 
very  complex.  It  is  said  that  the  Brahmans  are  descended  s^my- 
from  the  seven  sons  of  the  god  Brahma,  who  were  Bhrigu, 
Angirasa,  Marichi,  Atri,  Pulaha,  Pulastya  and  Vasishtha. 
But  Pulaha  only  begot  demons  and  Pulastya  giants,  while 
Vasishtha  died  and  was  born  again  as  a  descendant  of 
Marichi.  Consequently  the  four  ancestors  of  the  Brahmans 
were  Bhrigu,  Angirasa,  Marichi  and  Atri.  But  according 
to  another  account  the  ancestors  of  the  Brahmans  were  the 
seven  Rishis  or  saints  who  form  the  constellation  of  the 
Great  Bear.  These  were  Jamadagni,  Bharadwaj,  Gautam, 
Kashyap,  Vasishtha,  Agastya,  Atri  and  Visvamitra,  who 
makes  the  eighth  and  is  held  to  be  descended  from  Atri. 
These  latter  saints  are  also  said  to  be  the  descendants  of 
the  four  original  ones,  Atri  appearing  in  both  lists.  But  the 
two  lists  taken  together  make  up  eleven  great  saints,  who 
were   the   eponymous   ancestors   of  the  Brahmans.      All  the 



9.  Restric- 
tions on 

different  subcastes  have  as  a  rule  exogamous  classes  tracing 
their  descent  from  these  saints.  But  each  group,  such  as 
that  of  Bhrigu  or  Angirasa,  contains  a  large  number  of  exo- 
gamous sections  usually  named  after  other  more  recent 
saints,  and  intermarriage  is  sometimes  prohibited  among  the 
different  sections,  which  are  descended  from  the  same  son  of 
Brahma  or  star  of  the  Great  Bear.  The  arrangement  thus 
bears  a  certain  resemblance  to  the  classification  system  of 
exogamy  found  among  primitive  races,  only  that  the  number 
of  groups  is  now  fairly  large  ;  but  it  is  said  that  originally 
there  were  only  four,  from  the  four  sons  of  Brahma  who 
gave  birth  to  Brahmans.  The  names  of  other  important 
saints,  after  whom  exogamous  sections  are  most  commonly 
called,  are  Garg,  Sandilya,  Kaushik,  Vatsya  and  Bhargava. 
These  five  appear  sometimes  to  be  held  as  original  ancestors 
in  addition  to  the  eleven  already  mentioned.  It  may  be 
noted  that  some  of  the  above  names  of  saints  have  a  totem- 
istic  character ;  for  instance,  Bharadwaj  means  a  lark  ; 
Kashyap  resembles  Kachhap,  the  name  for  a  tortoise  ; 
Kaushik  may  come  from  the  kusJia  grass  ;  Agastya  from  the 
agasti  flower,  and  so  on.  Within  the  main  group  exogamy 
sometimes  also  goes  by  titles  or  family  names.  Thus  the 
principal  titles  of  the  Kanaujias  are :  Pande,  a  wise  man  ; 
Dube,  learned  in  two  Vedas  ;  Tiwari,  learned  in  three  Vedas  ; 
Chaube,  learned  in  four  Vedas  ;  Sukul,  white  or  pure  ; 
Upadhya,  a  teacher  ;  Agnihotri,  the  priest  who  performs  the 
fire-sacrifice  ;  Dikshit,  the  initiator,  and  so  on.  Marriage 
between  persons  bearing  the  same  family  name  tends  to  be 
prohibited,  as  they  are  considered  to  be  relations. 

The  prohibition  of  marriage  within  the  gotra  or  exo- 
gamous section  bars  the  union  of  persons  related  solely 
through  males.  In  addition  to  this,  according  to  Hindu 
law  a  Brahman  must  not  marry  a  girl  of  his  mother's  or 
maternal  grandfather's  gotra,  or  one  who  is  a  sapinda  of 
his  father  or  maternal  grandfather.  Mr.  Joshi  states  that 
sapindas  are  persons  related  through  being  particles  of  the 
same  body.  It  is  also  understood  that  two  persons  are 
said  to  be  sapindas  when  they  can  offer  pindas  or  funeral 
cakes  to  the  same  ancestor.  The  rule  barring  the  marriage 
of  sapindas   is   that   two   persons   cannot   marry   if  they   are 


both  as  near  as  fourth  in  descent  from  a  common  ancestor, 
and  the  relationship  is  derived  through  the  father  of  either 
party.  If  either  is  more  remote  than  fourth  in  descent 
they  apparently  could  marry.  If  the  relationship  of  the 
couple  is  through  their  mothers  in  each  case,  then  they 
cannot  marry  if  they  are  third  in  descent  from  the  same 
ancestor,  but  may  do  so  in  the  fourth  or  subsequent  genera- 
tions. It  is  of  no  importance  whether  the  intervening  links 
between  the  common  ancestor  and  the  proposed  couple  are 
male  or  female  ;  descent  is  considered  to  be  male  if  through 
the  father,  and  female  if  through  the  mother.  In  practice, 
marriages  are  held  to  be  valid  between  persons  fourth  in 
descent  from  a  common  ancestor  in  the  case  of  male 
relationship,  and  third  in  the  case  of  female  relationship,  that 
is,  persons  having  a  common  greatgrandparent  in  the  male 
line  or  a  common  grandparent  in  the  female  line  can  marry. 

Other  rules  are  that  girls  must  not  be  exchanged  in 
marriage  between  two  families,  and  a  man  may  not  marry 
two  sisters,  though  he  can  marry  his  deceased  wife's  sister. 
The  bride  should  be  both  younger  in  age  and  shorter  in 
stature  than  the  bridegroom.  A  younger  sister  should  not 
be  married  while  her  elder  sister  is  single. 

The  practice  of  hypergamy  is,  or  was  until  recently,  10.  Hyper 
common  among  Brahmans.  This  is  the  rule  by  which  the  ^^™^' 
social  estimation  of  a  family  is  raised  if  its  girls  are  married 
into  a  class  of  higher  social  status  than  its  own.  Members 
of  the  superior  classes  will  take  daughters  from  the  lower 
classes  on  payment  usually  of  a  substantial  bride-price,  but 
will  not  give  their  daughters  to  them.  According  to  Manu, 
men  of  the  higher  castes  were  allowed  to  take  wives  from 
the  lower  ones  but  not  to  give  daughters  to  them.  The 
origin  of  the  custom  is  obscure.  If  caste  was  based  on 
distinctions  of  race,  then  apparently  the  practice  of 
hypergamy  would  be  objectionable,  because  it  would  destroy 
the  different  racial  classes.  If,  on  the  other  hand,  the  castes 
consisted  of  groups  of  varying  social  status,  the  distinction 
being  that  those  of  the  lower  ones  could  not  participate  in 
the  sacramental  or  communal  meals  of  the  higher  ones, 
then  the  marriage  of  a  daughter  into  a  higher  group,  which 
would  carry  with  it  participation  at  the  sacramental  marriage 

364  BRAHMAN  part 

feast  of  this  group,  might  well  be  a  coveted  distinction. 
The  custom  of  hypergamy  prevails  somewhat  largely  in 
northern  India  between  different  subcastes,  groups  of 
different  social  status  in  the  same  subcaste,  and  occasion- 
ally even  between  different  castes.  The  social  results  of 
hypergamy,  when  commonly  practised,  are  highly  injurious. 
Men  of  the  higher  subcastes  get  paid  for  marrying  several 
wives,  and  indulge  in  polygamy,  while  the  girls  of  the  higher 
subcastes  and  the  boys  of  the  lower  ones  find  it  difficult 
and  sometimes  even  impossible  to  obtain  husbands  and 
wives.  The  custom  attained  its  most  absurd  development 
among  the  Kulin  Brahmans  of  eastern  Bengal,  as  described 
by  Sir  H.  Risley.^  Here  the  Brahmans  were  divided  by  a 
Hindu  king,  Ballal  Sen,  into  two  classes,  the  Kulin  (of  good 
family),  who  had  observed  the  entire  nine  counsels  of 
perfection  ;  and  the  Srotriya,  who,  though  regular  students 
of  the  Vedas,  had  lost  sanctity  by  intermarrying  with 
families  of  inferior  birth.  The  latter  were  further  sub- 
divided into  three  classes  according  to  their  degree  of 
social  purity,  and  each  higher  class  could  take  daughters 
from  the  next  one  or  two  lower  ones.  The  doctrine  known 
as  Kula-gotra  was  developed,  whereby  the  reputation  of  a 
family  depended  on  the  character  of  the  marriages  made  by 
its  female  members.  In  describing  the  results  of  the  system 
Sir  H.  Risley  states  :  "  The  rush  of  competition  for  Kulin 
husbands  on  the  part  of  the  inferior  classes  became  acute. 
In  order  to  dispose  of  the  surplus  of  women  in  the  higlier 
groups  polygamy  was  resorted  to  on  a  very  large  scale  :  it 
was  popular  with  the  Kulins  because  it  enabled  them  to 
make  a  handsome  income  by  the  accident  of  their  birth  ; 
and  it  was  accepted  by  the  parents  of  the  girls  concerned 
as  offering  the  only  means  of  complying  with  the  require- 
ments of  the  Hindu  religion.  Tempted  by  a  pan  or 
premium,  which  often  reached  the  sum  of  two  thousand 
rupees,  Swabhava  Kulins  made  light  of  their  kid  and  its 
obligations,  and  married  girls,  whom  they  left  after  the 
ceremony  to  be  taken  care  of  by  their  parents.  Matrimony 
became  a  sort  of  profession,  and  the  honour  of  marrying  a 
girl   to  a   Kulin  is  said  to  have  been   so  highly  valued  in 

^   Tribes  and  Castes,  art.  Brahman. 

II  IlYl'EKGAMV  365 

eastern  Bengal  that  as  soon  as  a  boy  was  ten  years  old 
his  friends  began  to  discuss  his  matrimonial  prospects,  and 
before  he  was  twenty  he  had  become  the  husband  of  many 
wives  of  ages  varying  from  five  to  fifty."  The  wives  were